To Auction or Not to Auction….

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    Live auctions can have large payouts, and can be a lot of fun for the audience – especially when a bidding war on an item becomes major entertainment.

    I speak from experience. Many years ago, at a VIP reception prior to an event with both a silent and a live auction, the emcee for the evening decided to offer up a special item as a preview of what was to come. The reception room was packed and once the item was announced, the bidding quickly got competitive.

    It was an item I really wanted, so I was vigorously waving my bid number. Soon it came down to a tug-o’-war between me and someone elsewhere in the crowd.

    The audience got into it, and started cheering, urging us on. In the end, the item was mine and I was thrilled.

    Years later, I would meet people who talked about that night and what fun it was to watch the two of us in action.

    Auction Basics

    It takes months and months of legwork getting the items — with enough variety in both type and price to involve all the attendees. It takes a fabulous auctioneer to make the sale … at the highest prices possible. And, it takes an audience with the funds to bid up the items and stimulate the essential “war.”

    It also takes a good deal of time to write the catalogue and put together the displays with proper signage and bid sheets. It’s also essential to have enough staff so that, at the end, people who have made their purchases are not kept on long lines waiting to pay and receive their items.

    Successful bidders must pay and take the item at the event. Otherwise, you will find yourself taking many weeks to track people down to get their payments, and spending lots of dollars to ship the items.


    A great way to do an auction event is to find a partner and set a theme. For one auction, we partnered with Nickelodeon and focused on children’s items at the auction. There is an endless array of possibilities. All it takes is creativity !!

    So, if you ask me, when it comes to whether or not “to auction,” my answer is, “Go for it,” but be sure you have all the pieces in place.


    Have a comment or a question about creating or expanding your special event? Email me at With over 30 years in conference and event planning, we can help you turn your vision into reality.
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