The ABC’s of Evaluating an Auction

The ABC’s of Evaluating an Auction

One of our consulting services most utilized by clients is helping put the live auction lots in order. We always strive to create a natural flow to a live auction that readily engages the audience and builds to the ultimate climax, the fund a need. Our ability to do this is based on our knowledge of the flow of auctions and an understanding of the value of the live auction lots themselves.

Value plays an important role in the flow of an auction and in the capacity to develop a structure and narrative that works. There are a few simple guidelines, such as don’t open or close with your most expensive lot, and don’t place the most expensive lots back to back. One of the greatest challenges in ordering an auction is determining where to place those “priceless” items, especially class projects for schools.

One school event we work with presents a particularly unique challenge: nearly half of the 45 lots in the live auction are school projects. When initially confronted with the challenge of ordering this auction, we asked Kelly, the event chair, to assign an arbitrary value of “A”, “B” or “C” to each project.

Kelly took the time to look at each and every project from many angles. She looked at what they had sold for last year. She looked at the bidding history of the parents who spent the most money. She utilized ticket sales to identify which classrooms would have the most or least parents in attendance the night of the event. Kelly even applied a little subjective evaluation, to determine if something had any special appeal beyond what “only a mother could love.”

Kelly’s valuation of her auction was invaluable for us, and the event. It also showed a level of knowledge and creativity that underscore a few key points any auction could benefit from:

  • Know your audience, especially your highest bidders
  • Utilize previous years’ results as a foundation to learn from
  • Approach event planning with a creative eye
  • Tackle each task within the larger focus of the goals of the event

In Kelly’s case, this knowledge, focus and creativity resulted in the highest-grossing live auction her school has had to-date, including a record-setting fund a need, in the midst of incredibly challening economic times. 2009 is going to call for extra hard work to just make the same as years past.

Odds are, your auction benefit from some simple ABC’s as well.


  • December 19, 2008 at 12:58 pm · Reply

    An interesting read, Mr. Quiroga. Well written.

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