Silent Auctions.

     Generally speaking, the Silent Auction is women’s territory. The gift buyers. The bargain seakers. You typically see the wife next to the table with the husband on the outside. Plan accordingly!

     The average guest arrives at your event, finds a cocktail, perhaps gets a bite to eat, and proceeds to the Silent Auction. If they are part of the first one third of your guests to arrive, they will have the time and the ability to view all of the items. The remaining two thirds of your guests have limited their time and now must compete with the crowd to see all auction items.

     The next time that average guest moves through your Silent Auction, is when you begin to close. There may be items that have already exceeded their budget for that item, but there will be items that they still have interest in and want to see what the competition is going to do.

     If you want to make your Silent Auction attractive to your guests, you must make it EASY for them to understand and EASY for them to bid. Make sure items descriptions can be read from 2 - 3 feet away. Don't cover items in cellophane. Don't require bidders to write their name or phone # each time they want to place a bid. And don't require your guests to calculate out the next minimum bid increment for each item they bid on. Seriously? They are drinking!

     Here are 8 things to consider about your next Silent Auction:

Timing is everything!

     Set a schedule and stick to it! Your guests will place their final bids on your Silent Auction only when you start closing. Don’t wait for them - they are waiting for you!

     A Silent Auction should last 90 minutes - start to finish. No longer. No shorter. It is the right amount of time for the early birds and the fashionably late!


Display your items from low to high value!

     Sort your Silent Auction items by value, from the lowest to the highest. Determine the number of items you want on each section, and divide your items appropriately. Your first section should always be made up of your least valued items and have the least amount of items on the table.

     During your Silent Auction guests are drinking and socializing and if you've done your job correctly, having a great time! Many are not paying attention despite announcements from your Auctioneer. Not until that first section closes do people realize that the Silent Auction has begun closing. Any items of value on the first section will not do as well as that same item on a later section; more people are in attendance, more people are paying attention, and more people are involved in the bidding. Obviously, your best items should be kept for the last section.


Display your Silent Auction items in numerical order where possible.  There is nothing worse for a returning bidder who cannot find an auction item.

Item Description clear and to the point!

     Your item descriptions must be easily read. If they can’t be read from 2 feet away, then it is a waste of time! White paper, black ink.

     The Title of the item description is often the only piece of information that determines buyer interest. Be more descriptive than creative:

     A Romantic Getaway - NO! Two Nights at the Del with Dinner - YES!

     One of the hardest jobs on any Auction Committee is the person tasked with writing descriptions for all the Silent Auction items. Unfortunately, those descriptions are often over described, with way too many descriptive adjectives for any guests to deal with!

     Descriptions should be short and to the point. Just the facts! Your typical shopper does not have the time to read long winded works of fiction.

     Use a large font so descriptions are easily read from a distance.


Prioritize your item descptions with the best items listed first.  

Provide the location of any service offered.

Make bidding easy!

     Guests should only need to use their Bidder # to place a bid. Don’t ask for their name or phone number. Keep it simple - make it easy to participate.

     Forget the Minimum Bid and Minimum Raise and establish the bid amounts ahead of time, eliminating improper bids and making it much easier for bidders to bid higher.

     Generally speaking, I recommend starting bids at 30% of value with increments of 10% of value rounded up to the nearest $5.00. There will always be exceptions to this rule.

    Printing your bid forms on 3-part NCR paper allows you leave to a copy of the Bid Form on the table when the Silent Auction closes (pink), provides a copy to give to your guests to redeem their items (yellow) and leaves a copy for your records (white).


A Silent Auction should not be silent!

     Your guests require instruction, direction and encouragement to ensure they actively participate in your Silent Auction. Having the right sound system is critical to the success of your event. Unfortunately, bad sound systems happen all the time and there is nothing that can be done!

     A cordless handheld microphone allows your Auctioneer to freely move throughout the room and keep your guests informed as to the status of the Silent Auction. Be sure to have the microphone’s receiver placed near the center of the room and as high as possible as the receiver requires a clear line of sight to work properly.!

     Speakers should always be placed on tall stands to prevent sound from blaring in your guest’s ears.

Roll back the cellophane!

     Would you purchase a car or a refrigerator or a mobile phone, bottle of wine, autographed baseball or a piece of jewelry if you only could see it through cellophane? Don't expect your guests to show interest in something they can not clearly see.  

     Either take the cellophane off completely or roll it down during the Silent Auction so your potential bidders can view what they are bidding on!

Do not spend cash on your Silent Auction!

     The average Silent Auction will bring in 50%-60% of the retail value of items donated. For every $1.00 you spend to fill a basket, enhance a package or purchase a bottle of wine, you will be losing 40-50 cents!

     One of the reasons I have issues with baskets is because of the cash spent to fill, or out-right buy, most baskets.

     Take the cash!


The close!

     Set a schedule and stick to it. Yes, I know I mentioned this before, but it is one of the most important parts of a successful close, and deserves repeating.

     If we have done our jobs correctly, the room is full of loud people having a great time. Don’t make the mistake of closing all of your Silent Auction tables at the same time. By splitting up your items in sections, you give those guests who are not paying attention until after you close the first section, a chance to participate in the remaining closings. In addition, those guests with numerous items of interest can get involved in more than just one item at closing.  

     I like to close items one item at a time.  Competition drives the price up. When the announcement is made that a section is closing, I don’t close an item when guests are still bidding. I allow and encourage the competition to play itself out either by waiting out the bidders or staging a mini-live right there and then.

     Never pull a Bid Form out from someone who wants to bid! We want the money!

Do you want to learn more?

     Procuring, Packaging and Displaying Silent Auction items.  What sells best? What to stay away from. Super Silent and Mini Live Auctions. Guaranteed Purchases/Buy It Now. The importance of valuing Silent Auction items. And much more.

     Contact me now to set up a time when we can discuss ways to maximize your revenues and ensure your guests are engaged.

Contact Steve

cell/text: 619/723-0324  •  email: