Let there be light

Let there be light

As auctioneers we tend to focus on sound, as we know that bad sound can make it impossible for the audience to participate however much they support the cause.

On the other hand bad lighting can make it really difficult for those of us on stage.  The importance of lighting was highlighted recently at the Share our Wine Auction at the Samueli Theatre in Newport Beach.

As you can see, within the controlled environs of the theater, their sound solution was reasonably simple, a couple of large speakers hung from the ceiling, but the number of lighting permutations is enormous.

The purpose of lighting is to highlight the stage or podium causing the audience to focus in that direction.  Too often though, the lighting solution is a couple of spotlights in center of the back wall aimed directly at the stage.  This is blinding for anyone who has to look through the lights at the audience.

The problem is compounded because it is traditional to sit the expected high-rollers front and center, and so with the spotlights shining directly over them the people you most want the auctioneer to focus on are the hardest to see.

Ideally we need to be lit from above and from the side.

In addition the ambient light should be bright enough for the audience to read their catalogues.  This also means that it will be harder for the parts of the audience to hide in the dark.  The loudest and rowdiest section of the room is usually the darkest corner.

At a recent auction where the ambient light was very low, I was saved because I now covert my auction notes to an Ipad which is backlit.  The two lighting choices for the room were either bright industrial fluorescent lighting or almost complete dark.  I do not fault the organizers for this.  Colleen and I went with them for a site check prior to the event, but it was a bright spring day and the none of us thought to question the lighting.

There can also be lighting issues during a daytime event.

Above is a shot from the stage at Winesong.  The auction takes place under a tent during the afternoon.  You can tell that the stage is lit from above and there is good visibility under the tent.  The difficulty is the juxtaposition between the bright sunlight outside the tent and the shade inside.  It makes it very hard to read paddle numbers just inside the tent or even to see the bidders outside.

In a theater the lights are used to build the Fourth Wall between the actors and the audience.  An auctioneer wants to break that wall down, while still remaining the center of attention.

Though we do a sound check prior to every event, we know that in many ways it is meaningless because the sound changes as soon as you fill the room with a crowd who is eating, drinking, talking and having a fun social time with their friends.  In the same way we do a lighting check, but what seems to work during daylight may not work after-dark.  What we suggest is that you make sure that your vendors know that you are cognizant of the unique features of a fund-raising auction and that you expect them to take them into consideration.

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