When it comes to benefit auctions, some think bigger crowds are always better.
Perhaps. But there is one distinct DISadvantage of a larger crowd — it’s harder to find a good benefit auctioneer.
When you’re interviewing auctioneers, find out how many events he or she has overseen with your same guest count. In other words, if you have 400 attendees, ask how many galas he or she is running in that size.
Just because an auctioneer has the personality to work an event of 200 guests does not mean he or she will translate that personality into a larger event.
(This is one of those benefit auction secrets your auctioneer hopes never crosses your mind.)
One of my clients initially reached out to my company when their former auctioneer declined to work the job again.
“The auctioneer never felt in control of the crowd,” I was told, “She said she wouldn’t work it again.”
When I launched my business, I’d primarily been working events in the 200 person range. When a national organization called, the Development Director wisely asked if I’d ever worked an event of their size (~450 guests).
To alleviate her concerns, we did two things.
First, I suggested they call another auctioneer or two to ask for a professional opinion as to whether I was ready to manage that size of a crowd.
Might sound crazy, but another auctioneer — despite being a competitor — would have a better idea than a nonprofit when it comes to fairly assessing another auctioneer’s skill set when it comes to stage presence and crowd size. Although I was new to the industry, I’d been participating in national and state auction competitions, so other auctioneers had witnessed me managing a large crowd of buyers.
Second, we talked concessions.
If you’re taking a chance on an auctioneer, consider asking for something in return. Maybe you get extra services, more staff onsite, or a price reduction. It can’t hurt to ask.
In short, galas with larger guest counts must be particularly selective in choosing an auctioneer. The crowds are noisier, it’s harder to identify bidders, and maintaining control of the event is substantially more difficult. Before you book, check to make sure your benefit auctioneer has the expertise to manage it.