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Silent Auction Tips, Auction Planning

Are You Really, Truly Ready for the Night Of Your Event?

Are you really truly ready for your event?  Handbid's auction expert Diana Duplantier explores that topic with a funny yet insightful look into the life of Handbid staff attending auction events. 

SO LET'S GET STARTED

Let's start this post with a funny story from a client's event. Imagine this; I'm showing up to an event dressed in my black cocktail dress or in my casual-chic wear.

I show up and I am carrying a laptop, an iPad, credit card swipers, extension cords, name tag lanyards and all kinds of other materials. The first question I get is this: "are you with the caterer?" (Insert confused look and slow blink here.) 

What's interesting is that I've experienced this scenario more than once. 

It happened 2 or 3 times before had to asked myself: "Why does this keep happening?" This is just plain weird. Then, it dawned on me.

Caterers

The reason I am mistaken for the caterer is because I am generally one of the first ones to show up at the venue. And, who are usually the first ones at the venue? The caterers!

They are the ones busy in the background searing the crab cakes, assembling the cucumber and smoked salmon crackers, garnishing the cheese platters, setting up tables and chairs, and polishing the glassware.

Because there is so much work to do, they are there early, and apparently so am I. One thing organizations do not want is for the staff from their mobile bidding company to be late. So I am always early to get as prepared as possible.

But how do you ensure that you're honestly ready for the night of your event?

HOW HANDBID PREPARES FOR AN EVENT

When Handbid is asked by an organization to attend an event, we have an agenda consisting of many things we must do to prepare. It goes without saying that if I am the one set to attend the event, I have spoken to the organization multiple times to refine strategy and clarify roles.

In the days and months leading up to the event, the team at Handbid takes a look at the auction on the Handbid website and mobile app to make sure the images are rendering well and that the items in the categories make sense. We have also make sure that starting bids, bid increments, values, etc. all make some “reasonable” sort of sense, and that the organization has completed their auction setup steps.

It is not unusual to see us jumping in to fix typos, quickly edit mistakes, or to ask the auction chair why an admission ticket was set up as a biddable auction item. After all, we want the event to be a great success.

Meanwhile, the night prior to the event, I have “Google Mapped” the location of the venue and fueled up the car. All of my devices (iPhone, iPad and laptop) are properly charged.

Here's a quick list of the things that I bring to each Handbid auction:

  • 4 credit card swipers
  • 1 extension cord
  • Plenty of name tags
  • A great attitude

I generally leave my house with plenty of time to spare in case I run into traffic in this every busy Metropolitan DC/Baltimore area. 

HOW WILL YOUR EVENT GO?

There are a number of different stories that I could tell you from this point on. There are so many ways to run events and I love to witness different versions of how organizations raise money for their cause.

There are many different kinds of fundraising events, but silent auctions take a little bit of organization and planning to run successfully.

Keep reading about stories of how Handbid's on-site, event support team was able to help our customers.

CHECK OUT OUR AUCTION KICKOFF GUIDE

Looking for a place to start planning your upcoming event?
We have a great “Kickoff” document that we share with our customers. Download this guide and get overview of how to plan for your auction event.


SO where were we?

At Handbid, we have real, solid, hands-on, in the trenches experience. From open to close, VIP early check-in to the rush, preschools to high-profile sports teams, cowboy boots to black tie, golf tournaments to dessert dashes, casino nights to art auctions...we have all kinds of experience.

We have seen just about everything, so when we walk into an event space, we can get an instant take of what kind of night it is going to be. Let's examine two opposing scenarios:

  1. Prep work wasn't done and now a ton of things need to be fixed before the event starts, everyone isn't on the same page and volunteers are disengaged
  2. Prep work was completed, the event is going great, bids are coming in, and everyone is happy

Lets dive into two examples of what we, at Handbid, have seen so you can learn from our experience.

My goal is that you take away one very important thing: the host sets the tone. So be host that puts on the event that people remember; the event that people look forward to; the event that continues to grow both in revenue and in fun. Understand that mobile bidding is so much more than generating revenue. It is also about guest experience and the guests’ connection to your cause. So, make it a great one.

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EXAMPLE 1 - THE EFFECTIVE & PREPARED SILENT AUCTION 

The first scenario covers an organization that successfully planned their fundraising event and silent auction. 

First, I checked their physical layout of their event space. They had an outdoor venue with a huge party tent beautifully decorated, items strategically placed on tables and organized by category. Each item was identified by cards with the item's name, category, number, and  starting bid.

Next, I was introduced to the Director of Development, the live auctioneer, the IT director, and hugged the people I had been working with over the phone for so many months. I made sure everyone knew to count on me for questions and help.

Volunteers were instructed to "check each other in" to become familiar with the guest experience. After the volunteers were checked in, we set up the check-in space and quickly went through the process. Lastly, we made sure that they knew how to answer questions that guests might have.

In this example, you can clearly tell that this organization understood how essential pre-event planning is to the success of the silent auction.

Because of this advanced preparation, my role was clear. I was to address any technical questions, monitor the ‘No Bids’ category, enter the live auction winners, send broadcast messages about how long the auction would be open, close the auction, and help with check out. Ultimately the event was extremely successful for the organization and I had a wonderful time.

It was so successful because the tone had been set from the beginning. The Event Manager was prepared, the volunteers were dedicated to their task, and the overall tone was cool, calm and collected.

Sure, things get hectic, guests complain, but everything was kept in its proper perspective. We call this a “good event vibe.” Vibe is important and the Event Manager can set it for the team. Set a bad vibe and things will start to fall apart.

Remember, planning and preparation will keep the vibe positive!

EXAMPLE 2 - THE UNPREPARED SILENT AUCTION

In contrast, here is a story about an unprepared event, and how Handbid was able to help.

A Handbid member of our On-Site team showed up to an event, took the proverbial look around, and what he found was quite different.

Silent auction items were placed on tables with no name, no number, no  organization, no identifying categories. In fact, there was no information whatsoever; there were just items on tables.

Handbid's on-site support located the Auction Chair to get clarification and here's how that conversation went:

Handbid: "I can’t tell what these items are, did you make the tent card labels that we discussed on the kickoff call?"

Organization: "Well, we just decided that people will use the app to do a search for an item."

HB: "True. Bidders can search in Handbid for an item, but what will they search for? Take, for instance, this item here. What is it?"

Org: "Uh.. hmm.. I am not sure we put that one in Handbid."

HB: "Okay, what about this one here? Is it the Mountain Getaway or the Ski Trip? "(points to a brochure with a picture of the mountains).

Org: (Insert deer-in-headlights look and a very long pause) “Not sure. But we see your point.”

Instead of panicking, the Handbid team sprang into action. Because this is what we do. We solve problems and “make things work.” Game-time decisions, we like to call it.

Without any time or materials to make it look polished, our staff grabbed cocktail napkins, a sharpie pen, and a roll of tape. With the Auction Chair by our side, we went item by item, locating the corresponding item within the app and writing this simple information on a cocktail napkin we “borrowed” from the bar.

Each item had the Item Name, Item number, and Category written with a sharpie pen and taped next to the item. We also removed any items from the tables that were not in Handbid and that the organization had didn't want to put into the auction. It wasn't pretty, but it was an effective solution to an immediate problem.

Cocktail napkin bidding info

In this scenario, the Auction Chair did not see the connection between the app, the items and the guests experience when browsing the items in the auction area. Ultimately, the Org had a great event, but this was certainly time spent by our Auction Team that could have been better utilized talking to volunteers, checking in early arrivers/VIPs, setting up iPads, refining a check-in strategy, etc. And, truth be told, this is NOT a good use of our time as On-Site support.

At Handbid, we make a clear distinction between the kind of support you need AND we offer many different options to meet your needs as a client:

  • Auction Experts
  • On-Site Support
  • Auction Consulting 
  • Dedicated Account Managers
Keep reading for an outline of each of these elements, and to learn how you can tell what you need for your silent auction. 

HANDBID EVENT SUPPORT

We offer all kinds of support, including technology, access to our knowledge base, onSite support, auction/event consulting and pre-event counseling and encouragement!! 

Your job, as the person in charge of your auction, is to determine which kind of support is best for your Organization and for your event. 

How to Find out What You Need

Here are some questions to ask yourself when assessing your organization's need:

  • Is this your first auction?
  • How many volunteers will you have?
    • How capable are they?
    • Will they be there for the entire event or are they only planning to work a portion of the event?
  • Are you planning on running and executing your silent auction at your event?
  • Are you planning on mingling with guests at your event?
  • Would you benefit from some “behind the scenes” pre-planning support?
  • Would you and your staff/volunteer team appreciate a training session?

Be sure to ask yourself these questions and to be honest with your answers.

The Different Kinds of Handbid Support

Then, read these descriptions of the types of support we offer. Perhaps in your mind, you are already making your own distinctions, but let's take a moment to clarify.

  • AUCTION EXPERT. An Auction Expert is a seasoned, senior auction manager who has coordinated and run multiple auctions on the Handbid platform. Some refer to this person as a “captain” or lead. This expert can guide you and your staff/ volunteers on how to organize and execute a successful auction event with Handbid. 
  • ONSITE SUPPORT. Our onSite Support staff can supplement your own staff (or our auction expert) with a trained team to come into your event and assist with check-in, checkout, guest/bidder support and any other issue related to your auction. Our expert, coupled with this team can be a full-service solution for you. 
  • AUCTION CONSULTANT. We also have Auction Consulting which is a highly organized member of our team who will organize and package your items, edit descriptions, create displays/tent cards, set starting bid prices, increments, and upload images. 
  • DEDICATED ACCOUNT MANAGER. A Dedicated Account Manager is a person you can call or email directly that will assist you with auction setup, item configuration, and uploads. 
  • REMOTE MANAGER SUPPORT. All of our customers get remote support by way of email, chat and a dedicated auction support phone number they can call during their event. That is included in the cost of Handbid. In this situation, we can “do things” for the auction manager remotely (and save on the costs of having staff onSite). Remote managers can enter paddle raises, live auctions, fix invoices, delete/remove bids, split items, split invoices, etc. Often times, the venue is loud and hectic and you need some work done in Handbid. Why not have someone remote, in a quiet place with a much better Internet connection do it for you?

WHAT TYPE OF SUPPORT DO YOU NEED?

At Handbid, the majority our clients run their events with some kind of support from us. 

That means our clients know that we're able to send someone to their event, but they might not need it. 

Regardless of the kind of support we provide, there is a required amount of preparation and planning that any organization must do to make their event a greater success.

We offer a variety of options to help you get sufficiently prepared and we encourage ALL of our customers to consider these as they prepare for their event.

What type of pre-event planning support can Handbid offer?

The Knowledge Base: All Handbid customers have access to this resource with their subscription. Our Knowledge Base is FULL of video tutorials, ideas, best practices, descriptions, and explanations of how to run a Handbid event. In addition, within the KB, there is an option to chat with us, send us an email, and make a suggestion!

Handbid Support: All Handbid customers can contact our customer support team. Our customers reach out to service@handbid.com to get answers to their auction-related questions. 

Handbid Sales: Who better to ask than your amazingly delightful, extremely knowledgeable yet appropriately opinionated salesperson? I help my customers all the time! We are a dedicated team of people helping you make the most of your event so you can make money for your cause!

Handbid Blog: Most of our blog posts were inspired by real-life examples of events, customers, auctions and ideas that we encounter in this complex world of fundraising. Take some time to review a few articles, or do a search for what interests you.

Handbid Personalized Training: 2 hours of training on Handbid can go a long way. This is the best way to get your staff educated on the software, and can even be recorded to watch later. 

Handbid Auction Health Check: This is where our team of professionals combs over your auction to make sure things are in order. Here are some examples of things we are looking for:

  • Are the starting bids and bid increments set at appropriate levels?
  • Do you have a Fair Market Value set on your items?
  • How do the images look?   
  • Is Credit Card Processing enabled?
  • Do you have a message entered that will go at the bottom of every winner’s receipt?
  • Is the donor field populated? 

WHERE DO YOU START?

As you can see, we have a lot of ways to help you get prepared for your event.

Handbid engages bidders, drives more bidding, and generates more auction revenue, all while simplifying the auction process for you! Best of all, we know just how hard it is to plan and execute a silent auction. Contact us to ensure your fundraising event is as profitable, and as fun, as possible.

Wondering how to get started?  Contact our team for a free walk through of our platform or watch our live demonstration to see how Handbid works. 

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