What makes an amazing live auction?
What makes people bid generously and over value on items?
What is it that actually inspires giving when people gather together to support their favorite cause?
These are important questions that every live auction planner should be asking themselves.
Live auctions are rarely successful when approached from the mentality - if we build it they will come. Many groups work hard on their live auction packages only to see them not achieve the results they hoped for on the night of the event.
Sometimes the most elaborate and high market value items don’t perform well because they just are not a match for the audience. Sometimes, what one committee member values in an item is too niche for the crowd. And sometimes packages are just too much - too much to conceptualize, too much stuff, and sometimes just too overwhelming. If you need several pages to cover all a package includes - then likely your guests are going to have information fatigue and tune out from having interest in that item.
Live auction success begins with understanding your audience. Review historical data and what has traditionally sold well at your event. Notice who your live auction bidders are. Generally speaking at any given event a small percentage of your audience members are actually live auction bidders - maybe around 5-10%. It’s a small, but generous section of your crowd - so get to know them. Ask them what they want to see at the event and use their excitement as guidance for building your packages.
If you want to increase the percentage of guest participation at your live auction - consider including at least one sell a seat experience. Many groups have had success with such items. These low cost tickets items can range anywhere from $75 a head to $250. Some examples I have seen work well:
The sky's the limit when thinking about these types of events - but again you have to really know your audience to understand what kind of party or event will work. Having a committee that can promote and excite your guests about the party in advance helps greatly as does having party hosts that people want to spend time with!
Another factor in live auction success is making sure the emcee and auctioneer set the tone for the live auction and remind the audience of the “why” of the event. Ultimately no one is really there for the stuff. The stuff is how we achieve our end goal - raising money for the organization. I wrote a blog post for Marquam Auction Agency on how to use warm up items to get the crowd into a generous spirit in which they bid over value on items - because that’s how we reach our goal to support the organization.
Time and again throughout the auction - the auctioneer and emcee need to be coming back to the mission and remind folks that the bidding is supporting the organization.
Another factor is keeping the energy up and making bidders feel good. From the very first winning bidder to the last - the auctioneer and bid spotters (professional or volunteers) need to be thanking the bidders and back up bidders as well as encouraging the crowd to thank them with their applause too. Things like high fives, verbal praise, and applause go a long way in creating a celebratory environment that makes people feel good about their giving. Sadly I’ve been at events where people on stage make bidders feel bad - remember that even if an item doesn’t go for what you think it should go for - you want to celebrate every bid and make everyone feel good every single time. Set the tone you want to see reflected back.
Live Auction success depends on so many pieces coming together to make magic happen. It requires research and digging into your historical data, talking to your donors to find out what they want to bid on, marketing items in advance and on the night of the event, getting donors excited about your mission and how the event helps further your goals, and keeping a positive and upbeat energy throughout the event.
If you want to explore ideas and strategies to make your next live auction one in which donors leave saying, “wow - that was amazing” - reach out and let’s explore how we can elevate your event!
And be sure to check out my other blog post - 3 Ways to Grab Attention for Your Live Auction Items.
Michael Faith Benefit Auctioneer and fundraising professional