Every live fundraising auction should make sure the audience always knows what lot number is currently up for sale throughout the entire auction. It is not enough for the auctioneer to announce the number of each lot as they begin to sell it, there has to be some sort of visual display that serves as an anchor for the crowd.
Fundraising auctions are usually rowdy affairs, with people talking at their tables throughout the auction. It is unreasonable to expect each and every audience member to pay strict enough attention throughout the entire event to know exactly where the auction is.
Displaying the lot numbers gives people the ability to tune in when a lot they are interested in is up for sale, and to enjoy their friends’ company the rest of the time (something we encourage, wholeheartedly). Usually this is accomplished through a slideshow presentation projected on to large screens.
Sometimes, however, it is not possible to have a projector or a slide show. Few projectors can be seen outside during the day, for example. Some venues do not lend themselves to large screens, and some events simply don’t have the budget for high-tech solutions.
Our advice is to make the most of the situation in the best way that you can; be creative. Embrace low-tech solutions and find a way to make sure that your crowd remains informed throughout the auction. You can have volunteers walk the stage and into the crowd holding aloft a large numbers (like a high-class version of a boxing ring girl). If you are in a gymnasium you can use the scoreboard to keep track of where you are.
We’ve even done a number of events that took the most straightforward, low-tech approach possible: a flip chart with each lot number pre-printed on it. Keeping your audience informed will always yield better results than doing nothing. And any auction with more than three lots needs a way to keep the audience informed.