Virtual auctions are the way of the future, with more and more people looking to take the concept of an auction online without sacrificing the benefits of a live auction or event. The virtual component not only allows more people to participate, including those who cannot attend in person, but it can be just as successful as an in-person or online event.
What is an Auction?
An auction is an opportunity to buy something at a variable price determined by supply and demand. The demand is the other people who are participating in an auction. One person might find an item worth pocket change, while another might be willing to spend hundreds or thousands on the item. In a Benefit Auction that is properly orchestrated the emphasis is more on “giving” than “buying” and often items may sell for above their value.
Types of Auctions
While the virtual concept has the same environment as the in-person auction, people bidding on items driven by supply and demand, there are some distinct differences. An in-person auction, otherwise known as a live auction, occurs at a venue. The venue is where bidders will gather with the motivation to bid on the item or items presented to them.
When you move the auction online, bidders will instead go to a website and see the current bid. From there, they can choose if they want to bid on the item or not. The option is to either bid at the next level above the previous bidder or bid at a higher amount of their choice. There is typically a timer, giving bidders a set amount of time to bid on the item. Once the time runs out, the highest bidder gets the item.
The perfect mix between a live auction and an online option is the virtual option. With a virtual auction you can open bidding a day, a week, or even month before the event. This online auction component will give attendees time to bid on a few select items that you choose to open prior to the event. As aforementioned, a typical virtual auction is a hybrid mix of an online and in person. In this scenario, people in person in the venue will bid along with those participating virtually.
Benefits of a Virtual Auction
Auctions are particularly beneficial for non-profits as people jump at the opportunity to provide support for their favorite charity or organization dedicated to giving back and helping others. In the case of an auction, it's a win-win for participants. The people bidding get to provide generosity to the non-profit while getting something in return, almost like a parting gift. Often, those participating are people who would have donated to the charity or non-profit regardless but getting an item from the auction makes the donation more rewarding and provides entertainment value.
The best auctions have bidders that are not focused on the reward. The bidders are instead more focused on the act of generosity through giving. The idea is to have bidders thinking about donating to the cause, not shopping for a deal. Each item provides a new way to give!
Tips for Hosting a Successful Virtual Auction
Tip #1: Remember People are Watching the Auction
When bringing the auction to life, both live and virtually, you need to consider the virtual component. When planning, the ideas cannot only succeed in person but also through the screen. Even small ideas can boost virtual entertainment. These efforts will keep virtual participants going and will further motivate them to bid.
Furthermore, the host needs to do their homework to make the event look like a production. The entertainment and high-quality factor need to be there for the virtual aspect. Essentially, the auction needs to replace what people usually watch, such as a television show.
Tip #2: Keep the Virtual Aspect Engaging
The virtual auction needs to be entertaining as those participating virtually have distractions. Someone watching and being tuned in from home might have the TV on in the background, have a dog or baby to attend to, and have other things taking their attention away from the event. As soon as people tune out, you run the risk of them not tuning back in.
The event needs to constantly change to keep the virtual viewers plugged into the event. You can do this by having a clip of someone speaking live, then a clip of a short video, then a live auction of an item. You can even have a trivia question here and there and say that the first person to get the answer right will win a prize. Mixing it up can keep the event entertaining and avoid at-home distractions from taking the viewer's attention.
Animation on the screen in some manner will help make viewing interesting and hold the virtual audience attention. This could be something as simple as a PowerPoint showing the items available for bid, or short videos interspersed during the program. One fun way to make it interesting for all is to have very short (30 – 60 second) commercials for the items with the donor themselves describing their own donation. This provides a unique personal touch.
Tip #3: Open Bidding Early
The entire event doesn't need to be about bidding either. Some of the items can get opened for bidding early. For instance, you can have 4-5 items that get a head start of 48 hours. Then, during the event, you can have some opportunities for bidding but keep the window short.
The time that you don't spend on bidding can have guest speakers and close out some of the items that had a head start. With this strategy, you can keep the people engaged who were only bidding on items in the early start category. It also can keep people who are currently bidding excited.
Tip #4: Have High-Quality Sound
The sound may seem like an auction basic, but it's necessary, especially when you have a virtual component. You want the person talking on camera to be heard and have a microphone that gets their words across clearly. You want to avoid the Zoom conference call quality and any sound that’s monotone.
Like the other tips, the goal is to have a production and put on a show. Along with this, you want to minimize distractions that take away from the sound, such as distracting backgrounds. Someone focusing on other parts of the event rather than the speaker will find themselves unengaged with the auction.
Tip #5: Publicize the Event Near and Far
Before the virtual auction, there are many things you can do to boost numbers and encourage more people to get involved. The first thing you want to do is take advantage of social media. Spread the word by utilizing each platform you are on by making social media posts, graphics, virtual flyers, etc. You can also have “save the dates” sent out virtually and keep track of the number of people attending that way.
Furthermore, utilize your circle. Ask friends, family, community members, neighbors, etc., to join the event or spread the word. The more people you talk to, the more the word will spread, and the more people will join the auction. With the virtual component, there is no limit to the number of people who can participate.
Tip #6: Get People to Register Early
If you can, give people an early registration incentive. One example of this is saying that if they register early, their name will get entered into a random drawing. The idea of a prize for registering early for an event they were already planning on signing up for will instill excitement in people.
Additionally, another idea is to place a deadline on when they can register from their phone. You can explicitly say that if you register by this day at this time, you get entered into the drawing. That way, there is a sense of urgency, opposed to people waiting until the last minute to do early registration.
Tip #7: Have the Raffle at the End of the Night
If you decide to do a raffle, either to incentivize early registration or not, hold it at the end of the night. The goal is for people to sign up early with the raffle in mind. The potential prize keeps them motivated to sign up and stay engaged with the event. If you have the raffle at the beginning of the show, people will likely drop off right after they bid on the item they want. Or they might find that they lose motivation to bid on items. Another strategy is to open all the items for bidding early then spotlight and close some of all of them during your live show.
With the raffle at the end of the night, you keep people online until the raffle. Those who signed up early and got their names entered will want to see if they won the prize, especially if that was the main reason for them signing up. The longer you keep people on, the likelier more people will bid on items. Please also be aware of your state and local raffle laws.
Tip #8: Hire Professionals
Finally, hire a professional to help you with your virtual auction. A professional will know how to make the auction into a production. An amateur to auctions and the virtual realm might not put together the show you want. Make sure the person you hire understands your vision.
The level of expertise someone has in auctions and specifically virtual auctions will affect the results of the event. An expert will put on an expert level auction and show. Someone with less experience may not bring the oomph you need.
If you are looking to host a virtual auction, keep these tips in mind to ensure you have a successful night. Auctions, especially virtual auctions, are powerful tools for raising money. When done the right way, you can pave the way for the success of future events and auctions later down the line.
To learn more about virtual auctions and best practices, click here to get in touch with our auction and event experts.