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Auction Basics & Essentials

Exciting auction lots. Motivated and generous bidders.  What else do you need?  Here are a few of the most basic elements of a successful auction.

Auction Catalogs
Also called a “program,” this is a list of the items offered for auction and distributed to all attendees.   It contains brief descriptions, names of donors, and restrictions such as blackout dates.  Each lot is numbered so the auctioneer can refer to “Lot Number One” and so on.  For information about our auction catalog writing services, click here.

Auction Bidder Numbers

This is a number assigned to each auction attendee. It is the essential tool for tracking live auction bids and for participants to place bids in the live and silent auctions.

Auction Paddles

On auction night, each bidder is given a “paddle” with his or her own bidder number. Paddles can be as simple as large black numbers printed on 8 ½ x 11 white cardboard. Legibility from a distance is key to the design.  All attendees should have a paddle.  In the case of couples, each should have their own paddle with their own bidder number.

Auction Lot Numbers
Displayed on Stage
To help the audience follow the live auction as it progresses, lot numbers should be displayed for all to see. This can be accomplished in any number of ways:  a simple flip chart managed by a volunteer, large numbers carried around by a volunteer (similar to a boxing match where the round number is carried through the ring), or with a PowerPoint presentation.  To learn about our PowerPoint Presentation services, click here.

Professional Audio
Quality sound is mandatory for live auction success.  Poor sound can cost thousands in lost revenue.  We can help you select a company that understands the unique demands of a charity auction where ambient noise always increases as the event progresses.

Energetic Spotters

These are the people (usually volunteers) who stand in the audience during the live auction and help the auctioneer by signaling or “spotting” bids as they are made.   They convey bid information by using body language, light sticks, a white napkin, or some other eye-catching prop.  At Reynolds & Buckley, we train your volunteers in this task just prior to the live auction. Professional spotters are also available.

Skilled Recorders

At least two responsible people need to be designated as recorders. Their sole job is to keep track of the winning bidder’s number and the final bid amount.  Recorders should be seated to the front or side of the auctioneer so they can quickly and easily communicate during the auction if necessary.

Auction Runners

Another task for volunteers. They communicate winning bid numbers and amounts to those operating the computers at checkout.

Event Registration & Checkout
It is imperative that you provide a painless process for attendees to register at the beginning and check out at the end of your event. No-one likes to have to wait in line to get in to an event, or pay when they leave. There are many systems that exist, and we recommend  While our companies are not affiliated, we find their service greatly streamlines registration and checkout in an affordable way.


Our unique cash-call technique.  We are happy to provide details on how to plan and execute this highly effective lot.

Auction Forms
To see samples of all the forms you will need to stage a live and silent auction, visit our resources section.

Table and Water
Our auctioneers do not require a lectern, but do use a small table during the live auction.  In addition, they need a few bottles of water on stage.