How to Set Up + Display Silent Auctions

How to Set Up + Display Silent Auctions

silent auctionSo you’ve managed to procure fabulous items for your silent or online auction. Great job! Now you begin the real strategic work. Because the ways in which you display and promote those items has a HUGE impact on your bottom line.

By display, we’re talking lighting, spacing, color, language, even bid sheets – especially bid sheets – you’ll want to take all of this into account in order to make the most money you possibly can. For online auctions, quality high resolution item imagery, pithy descriptions and software make the biggest difference.

A quick caveat, before we outline our tried- and-true best practices for silent auction displays: Online auctions are becoming more and more common. The opposite is true for in-person silent auctions. We predict the majority of traditional paper bidding silent auctions will be obsolete within five years.

Physical Layout

Where you station the sale directly determines how well the silent auction does. Do not – we repeat – DO NOT line the perimeter of the room with silent auction sale items! Do not push sale tables against the walls – as we like to say, “Don’t put Baby in the corner!” Choose areas front and center, with plenty of light and room for foot traffic on all sides. Strategically place sales opportunities on the way to highly-trafficked areas, like the bar. Set up the flow of traffic so folks have to pass by what you’re selling – not by chance, but by your intentional design.

Avoid “L” or “U” shaped layouts, corners, or anything that might interfere with your bidders’ mobility, such as big pillars or planters. Another thing to avoid? Crowding! Americans require much more physical space when browsing and buying. Allow for at least two feet of space between items on tables. Seriously. Don’t skimp on space. It will negatively affect your bottom line.

And think outside the table! When possible, utilize aerial display space. Stagger item heights on tables using props for elevation. This helps highlight silent auction packages attractively and effectively, thereby increasing their sale prices. Even better? Use digital monitors and PPT slides with incredible imagery and light to entice bidders and buyers to tables.

Let there be light! Silent auction areas must be well-lit to showcase the fabulous offerings and to allow for reading item descriptions, as well as highlighting any exciting or valuable pieces. Lighting and color positively influences sale prices, so always use it to your advantage.

Effective Bid Sheets

Nothing to it, right? Just put the item name on a sheet of paper and throw a few rows under it? Not so fast! First, put some thought into what you’re naming your packages. A catchy title goes a long way towards drumming up enthusiasm. Use color and quality photos and other visuals. Color is always more eye-catching and appealing than black and white!

Increase font sizes, so bidders can read sheets from several feet away without their glasses on. As for restrictions, if applicable – list them in smaller, lighter font, thus keeping the focus on the sales benefits of each item. Consider incentivizing your sale with “Buy it Now” lines or a “Green Line” or similar raffle to stimulate bidding. Not sure what these are? Ask us!

Pro Tip

Unless your state laws prohibit the practice, do not list retail values on bid sheets or online. This creates a psychological buying ceiling for donors, which limits giving.

Closing Time

You need to be crystal clear about when your silent or online auction closes. List it in your printed materials (programs, catalogs, etc.) and make sure your auctioneer or emcee is keeping the silent auction shoppers informed via announcements. Once it’s officially closed, your volunteers MUST PULL BID SHEETS IMMEDIATELY. Otherwise, people keep bidding and upset bidders who followed the rules. Plus, if folks are still lingering around a closed silent auction table, they’re not where they need to be, which is either transitioning elsewhere or paying attention to the program. Consequently, the program gets delayed and guests feel frustrated. Frustrated donors are not generous donors! Nor will they tell all their friends how much fun they had at your event. They’ll be talking about the chaos. 

Online Auctions

Setting up in-person silent auctions is a ton of work. And you can 100% count on it taking more hours than you think it will. On the contrary, setting up an online auction is a piece of cake, thanks to software! No doubt this is why online auctions are rapidly growing, while the opposite can be said for traditional silent auctions. There are mobile bidding software programs that will make setting up your online auction a breeze. Need recommendations? You’ve come to the right place. Reach out and we’ll share!

As mentioned, online auctions are taking over the silent auction world. They make more money. They are more inclusive, have expanded reach and are a lot less work! For more in-depth advice, we’re here to help. Reach out today for a complimentary consultation!