One of the ways to generate excitement for a recurring auction lot at your event is to have a live testimonial from someone who won it previously as a part of the lot description.
Last year I was reminded of how powerful a well-placed testimonial can be. The organization for whom I was working was auctioning off an African Safari that promised to be a challenging lot for several reasons. First, it was a high-dollar trip that did not include any of the travel between the U.S. and the wilderness reserve in Africa. Second, it was a consignment, meaning that while it could be doubled, it had a substantial reserve price. If it sold for just over than the reserve, the organization would make very little money. And third, it was through a company that, while highly rated, did only consignments for benefit and fundraising auctions, meaning that the winning bidder’s fellow guests on the safari all paid wildly differing prices for the exact same trip.
Challenges notwithstanding, we decided to try to sell it in the live auction.
During the reception that preceded the live program, the auction chair told me she wanted me to meet somebody. He was a guest at the gala who had won the same trip at an auction for a different organization the previous year and had already gone on the safari with his spouse. We chatted about his experience, and his review was glowing and heartfelt -- so much so that I asked him if he would say a few words about the trip before we sold that lot. He agreed.
We arranged for a wireless mic to be ready at his table when the description of that lot started. I introduced him as a previous winner of the trip; and he stood up and gave the crowd the same positive review he had given me, full of humor and personal details. He even described the situation of his fellow travelers all having won the trip at auction in the most wonderful, unexpected way. He said it was a great positive, being on safari exclusively with fellow fundraising/benefit auction winners, because it meant traveling with ‘people who shared our values.’
As he spoke I could see the crowd becoming more animated and excited. The bidding action was strong right out of the gate, and we ended up selling it for over twice the reserve and doubled the lot as well. And the credit for the success of that lot goes to the gentleman who shared his actual experience, making the trip much more attractive and accessible to the audience. That lot benefitted greatly from his testimonial – a real, human moment and a great reminder of why an organization has a live event in the first place.
A testimonial can also be as simple as the auctioneer giving a previous winner a shout out and/or telling some of their story for them. “Mr. and Mrs. X, who are here tonight, took this trip last year and loved it.”
Not everyone is amenable to, or necessarily good at, talking about their experience in front of a crowd. But if there is a previous winner of a lot at your event, and they have a positive story to tell about it, it’s a resource worth exploring.