If you’ve got an unruly auction crowd that you need to quiet, several strategies should be used together to better manage the group.
One technique is to show good leadership from the stage. I call it “podium leadership.” It’s managed via scripting.
Every speaker on your stage needs to introduce the next speaker. There needs to be FLOW. Here is a more detailed example.
A typical program for many religious school auctions that use a seated dinner format may run something like this:
1. Guests find a table / seat
2. Father leads prayer. The crowd quiets down for this.
3. A member of the school leadership (e.g. a principal, PTO President, Board chair) welcomes and thanks.
4. Auction Chairpersons welcome and thank
5. Auctioneer begins
Let me share more detailed talking points of how podium leadership should work, using the flow just described.
When Father (or whomever) leads the prayer, guests generally quiet down. After the prayer, Father should wrap up his portion with an introduction, like this:
“I bet everyone here tonight knows long-time school family Joe and Mary Watson. Joe serves as Board President. Let’s welcome him to the stage — Board President Joe Watson.”
Father leads the crowd in clapping as Joe moves on stage. (Notice how there is no opportunity for “dead time.”)
Joe speaks and DOES NOT conclude by saying “bid high” and walking off the stage. No. No. Noooo. Joe says his remarks and concludes by leading the crowd in applause as he invites the Auction Chairperson to join him. For instance:
“We had six children graduate from this school. Mary and I have attended this event for many years and encourage you to bid against us. We’re always appreciative of the talented volunteers who step forward to lead this fundraiser. This year, Ned and Nellie Jones were co-chairs. The Board would like to thank them with this gift card. Join me in welcoming Ned and Nellie Jones to the stage.”
The crowd is led in clapping (a la “welcoming”) the co-chairs to the stage. No down time is allowed.
Ned and Nellie Jones, the Auction Chairs, now speak. They might ask their committee to stand. They might say why they love the school. They might tell a personal story.
The Auction Chairs then introduce the Auctioneer.
Once the Auctioneer begins, she’ll use whatever tricks she’s developed to manage the crowd.
Do you see how that flows?
See the cohesiveness?
In contrast, I often witness disjointedness. Here’s the typical (poor) talking points:
Father walks off stage without seguing to the next speaker. Even worse, he concludes with “Have fun! Bid high!” which is a verbal cue to the crowd to resume talking.
The next speaker then must quiet the crowd, perhaps using a water glass and a knife. Then — God as my witness — he says the SAME THING when he concludes his remarks. “Have fun! Bid high!” The audience once again is cued to talk because it SOUNDS like an ending.
Now the Auction Co-Chairs ascend the stage and try to quiet the crowd to make their remarks. “We just need your attention for ONE MORE MINUTE,” they might say.
This plea isn’t true. Once they leave the stage, the auctioneer is going to start a 45 minute program.
In short order, the audience becomes annoyed. They’ve been quieted multiple times and the auction hasn’t even begun. You are treating them like children, and damn you — they PAID to attend this fundraiser and THEY AREN’T HAVING FUN.
If you spend two minutes during your silent auction to coordinate your speakers talking points, much of this awkwardness is eliminated.
So here’s what you should say:
“Father, we need you to lead the crowd in applause as you segue to Joe,” you’ll explain. “And Joe, we need you to lead the crowd in applause as we segue to Ned and Nelly.”
Educate each speaker in how they can provide some podium leadership by seguing to the next speaker by leading the audience in applause.
If you fail to provide podium leadership for your event, guests will assume it’s a free for all.
No leadership = auction anarchy.
Auction anarchy = unruly loud auction crowd.
Try this technique in conjunction with the other auction strategies to mitigate the disruptiveness of a loud crowd.
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