This past Saturday I worked in a new venue in Washington, D.C. that presented some obstacles for any fundraising auctioneer.
To mitigate issues on gala night, the client invited the caterer, registration lead, and me to join her onsite a few months ago to give feedback.
Some background points:
- Special access: The impressive venue was offered by a supporter and would have been unattainable under normal circumstances, so the client wanted to use the space.
- Anniversary celebration: Because this auction gala would also be a 50th anniversary celebration of the school, the elegance of the building was befitting of the occasion.
- Vast space: Because of the anniversary, the goal was to have a larger crowd of 350 attendees. But if that crowd failed to materialize, the venue would be too large for this event’s average size, “drowning” guests in excessive space.
- Crowd control: The fundraiser would be a strolling reception-style event; not a sit-down dinner. Thus, managing the crowd would be harder.
- Blocked visibility: The palm trees couldn’t be moved. They obstructed some site lines.
- Big audio worries: The high ceilings, marble floors, and other hard surfaces bounced sound waves. A woman in heels walked across the lobby during our site visit; the clicking sound echoed something awful.
Flash forward. The event was this past Saturday.
Here’s what happened.
- The event sold out. Attendance goals were met.
- To help with crowd control, the dance band and floor (a new feature for this event) was positioned to one side of the space, thereby helping to push the crowd to the other side for the one-hour program.
- A few tables were set up for sponsors and retired faculty. I (the fundraising auctioneer) was positioned in the middle of those tables on a small 8″ tall platform. (In the video below, you’ll see the location.) I worked in-the-round, turning 360 degrees to involve all.
- The professional A/V company put speakers throughout the space, tucking them into several corners. Though the sound still echoed, it was as good as I could expect. I was thrilled!
The audio was the greatest concern I had during our site visit. Though I and other presenters quieted the crowd perhaps four times when they got particularly loud, the volume wasn’t nearly as much of a problem as I feared it would be.
The right audio equipment makes a huge difference. It’s rarely cheap, but it’s critical.
While browsing the audio vendor’s website, I found this article listing “do’s and don’ts:” Tips for Working with Your AudioVisual Vendor.
I specifically want to highlight their first point:
Do work with your provider in terms of goals instead of in terms of equipment. A competent AV partner should be able to take your goals and provide a solution.
YES! YES! YES!
- Tell your vendor you’re running a fundraising auction.
- Tell your vendor you’ll have XXX number of guests.
- Tell your vendor the set up (sit-down dinner, strolling supper, etc.).
- Tell your vendor the venue.
And then … zip your mouth.
If the vendor knows the venue, he’ll know exactly what equipment is required to meet your needs. If he doesn’t know the venue, he’ll do some research.
Do not order equipment. Do not say, “We need XX speakers and a lavaliere microphone.”
Let the vendor — who knows the quality and power of his audio equipment — specify the job. One vendor might need six speakers to accomplish your goals. Another might need 10.
If you visit with at least three vendors, you’ll get an idea of what the professionals are thinking.
The need for great sound at a fundraising auction can’t be overstated. Talk to enough vendors and you’ll see some patterns in their proposed design, concerns, and suggestions.
To see the final set-up from Saturday’s successful fundraising auction, watch the highlight video below. See if you can spot all the speakers set up around the room.
Do you have your own story about an audio nightmare or success story you’re willing to share?
If so, post it below.