Let’s talk about one of my favorite subjects that no one thinks about – the layout of the room – the physical layout of your silent auction area and the physical layout of your live auction area. Now, granted, everyone has a different physical location – a different venue. Here are some tips for your silent auction layout (this is almost my pet peeve I have to tell you).
First of all, the caterer wants to take your prime real estate and put some buffet or some ice carving or the bar in the prime real estate. When you evaluate your silent auction area make sure that you look at how many dollars a square foot you are going to make and how many dollars a minute you are going to make then look at the layout and say what is the best place, the most visible place, and that is where your silent auction should go and many times this is the middle of the room. It’s like the 1950’s bingo days approach to put the silent auction all around the outside edges of the room because that creates what I call ‘the silent auctioncongoline’ and the line just keeps going around and around. I like to create pods that capitalize on the best spaces in the room. Place the bar and the food on the outskirts. People will always find the bar and the food but own the room so that you can be what I call happily intrusive with the setup of your silent auction so that there are not big gaps. Set it up so there is room to move around but there is not this feeding trough around the hors d’oeuvres or the bar and then the silent auction is relegated to the outskirts. That would be something I would think is very, very important.
The other thing on silent auctions is I like to create the concept of a pod. So it would be some food, some silent auction, perhaps the bar, and then most importantly a mission piece. It could be a poster with a beautiful image and a quote from a participant, it could be a plasma screen monitor that has a video running or images of your programs and your services so that everywhere people go they really understand where their funding is going to be supportive. That’s some tips on the silent auction layout.
For live auctions it is very important in the layout that everyone, every single person have a seat. When you evaluate a venue make sure that everyone can be seated. My favorite is a round table if you have a sit down dinner (it might be an 8 or a 10 top) and I like to have equal seating. I don’t like a mixed seating where some people are high and some people are low or maybe some people can just stand. That is not conducive to raising money because in this economy there are several places in the live auction where you absolutely must rivet your guests to understand from a first person testimonial, a story, or you may have a montage of impact statements from program participants. You want every single person to be able to hear that and if they are standing up they are not paying attention – so everybody has to be seated. Secondly, for your live auction display, I like it in the front of the room so that people can see those items. I also suggest that you have a big screen so that you can display your live auction PowerPoint slides that have a picture, a bullet point description, and your donor so that your audience can focus on what is for sale.
Those are a couple tips about the layout of your silent auction area and your live auction area. Remember to spread out those silent auction items as a little extra hint because in this new economy no one is forcing in and jostling in to get those last bids. People are saying, “I really don’t want or need a silent or live auction item” – they prefer to have a wonderful evening and give. Many of them are giving at the fund-a-need special appeal.