By: Dan Campbell

One of the challenges of a live auction at a fundraising event is to get everyone’s attention so we can focus on fundraising. You have people socializing, moving about the room for restrooms, taking photos, and hitting the bar, so that traffic itself is a distraction. Your crowd will likely be noisy and unattentive, and it is now time to ask the to bid and give in your  fundraising program.

You need to get everyone focused on what’s happening on stage, and those that do not, are not yet ready to engage with their wallets, and even worse, they are distracting those that ARE ready to engage. You may have people standing and blocking views, or loud tables nearby making it hard to hear.

What can you do?

Below are several ideas to help you recapture the attention of your audience and get them tuned into the importance of giving.

Voice of God Announcement: sometimes a great sound system can move from background music to a booming voice to direct attention to the stage. If it is a unique voice, maybe combined with some intro music and a countdown clock on the screens, you can give people a bit of time to get back to their seats. 

Closing the Bar: this might be the best way to get your audience focused on the program. Some will be unhappy with this decision but giving the time to get one last beverage before asking for their attention for 30 minutes or so will motivate them to make that last run before program starts. You need to time your bartenders and make sure they close when you want them to. Your emcee will then let the crowd know that the bar will reopen as soon as everyone takes their seat and we can get thru the fundraising program. You can also mitigate this concern with wine at the tables, or maybe some self-serve bear stations that make it easy for some to grab a drink and then sit down.

Mission Video:  playing a Mission focused video right before program could be useful to gather everyone’s attention. This will be a different video that you might use right before the paddle raise, but it should be high energy and impactful. This will get your audience to quiet down, and be focused towards the front of the room, which then can be followed immediately with your fundraising elements. If you only have one video to use, you can consider doing the paddle raise immediately after this video and follow with your live auction.

Entertainment: you can also make your first live auction item something that is entertaining, such as a speed painter. This performance on stage will get everyone to focus and give them an experience that requires attention and intrigue (what is he painting?). Of course, that item painted here would be your first auction item, and get your audience on the right track for participation in the live auction. Everyone will want to see who wins that painting!

Warmup Live Auction Lot: sometimes you need to give the audience something to start the fundraising with that intrigues them on a different level. Your auctioneer might sell a VIP table package that “opens the bar” for the winning table. You could take something benign such as a glass of water. The intrigue of seeing what someone will “pay” for such an item not only is entertaining, but it resets the audience to recognize that bidding is not about receiving value, but more importantly to bid and give from the heart!

Games:  many clients love to use a game like Heads and Tails to engage their audience. This tried-and-true game will get your audience up and out of their seats after having dinner and refocus their attention on the stage. The beauty of this approach is that everyone in the audience can participate, either at a low cost to purchase a chance or as a free game. The audience is intrigued by a game of chance. 

The goal of these efforts is to get the audience focused towards the stage, but also to get their minds tuned into bidding and giving. They will need to have their paddles ready and will want to use them, even if for a quick game or a simple warmup lot. You are creating a new energy at this moment that clearly engages the guests in a way that they can lean into your mission, in a very fun way!