When I visit with some organizations about their auction fundraiser, they insist that their charity auction crowd is unusually loud.
“Sherry, we can’t ever get them to pay attention,” one will say.
Or, “Our crowd likes to party.”
Pardon the expression, but to that I’ll respond in a common phrase my Dad uses: “Well no shit, Sherlock.”
Your guests view the charity auction as a party.
Good parties tend to be loud. For your guests, charity auctions are celebratory events. A portion of them may see it as a date night away from the kids. Others came to pay tribute to your honoree. Someone else wants to tease a community leader in a public roast. Another auction guest sees it as a chance to catch up with friends.
And you see it as a fundraiser.
Fundraising may be high on your list of priorities, but it might not even be on your guests’ radar screen. Your guests are there to have fun … and we want them to have fun. The point is to plan for the volume.
Here are four auction tips to plan for the noise.
1. Invest in the proper sound system.
If we assume that 20% of the crowd is bidding in the live auction, the other 80% of the audience are chatting with friends. The sound system needs to cut over the din of the audience and allow the benefit auctioneer to be heard. Guests won’t bid or follow directions if they can’t hear.
Re-read that last sentence. It’s really important. Really.
2. A dynamic auctioneer
For God’s sake, put someone on stage who has some personality. Your charity auctioneer should not simply be “calling the numbers.” He needs to develop some rapport. Maybe she should even show a little humor.
If your auctioneer has poor rapport, the crowd will get louder … and louder … and louder as they try to be heard over the sound system. Add alcohol, and it doesn’t get better.
A good benefit auctioneer doesn’t care if people are talking, but she also has a threshold for when to bring reign people back in. And if she has a good sound system (see the first point), she can engage the interested bidders.
3. Stick to the timeline
Guests will be less likely to pay attention when the schedule spirals out of control. They’ll start talking to their friends, “What time do you have?” they’ll ask, “Weren’t we supposed to be eating by now?”
Stay on task. When it’s time to start the program, start the program. If the Board Chair has 3 minutes to speak, ensure he speaks for three minutes.
4. Change the layout; change the experience
The loudest charity auctions I conduct are when guests are seated around a dinner table. The quietest auctions are those in which the guests are seated theater-style.
If you are concerned about the sound level, consider having guests sit in a theater layout. This drops the sound level because guests cannot as easily converse.
So what do you think will help your auction the most? What will most improve the experience?
Report back to me so I know what made the biggest difference for you.