Getting Your Venue Prepared for Online Bidding

So, you’ve already done some of the heaviest lifting in adopting a new technology—you’ve sold your nonprofit’s board on online bidding, then you reached out to guests about how to use it, while adding great online bidding resources to your website.

But there are some more considerations to keep in mind when making such a significant change: can your venue accommodate it?

Before you commit, find out if you have the infrastructure you need at your usual event venue to support online bidding. You’ll have to do some on-site research and investigation to make sure your requirements are met.

Online Bidding Must-Haves

Having good-quality connectivity at your event is everything with mobile bidding. But what do we mean by “connectivity”?

Good access to cell reception (for all the major carriers) at your chosen venue is critical. But you’ll also want a strong, exclusive wi-fi signal, too. Having both is key to making sure your guests don’t run into connectivity problems, and are able to keep bidding.

Before you settle on your venue, or on using online bidding at your next event, make sure the location can provide your guests with an acceptable level of service.

When you call to discuss your requirements for online bidding with your venue, ask about connectivity—but don’t take their word for it. Make an appointment to go in and test the connection for yourself.

  • Test the cell reception. Bring phones and tablets attached to each of the major carriers, to try out each carrier’s level of service inside the building. Check different areas of your venue that people will use: check-in, the silent auction room, checkout and item pick-up—and anywhere else you expect people to congregate.
  • Test the wi-fi signal. Attempt to connect to the web at each of these locations throughout the venue, and access a data-intensive website. Look for any dead spots, then ask your venue to address them.
Tip:Try out the SpeedSmart app to test both your cell and wi-fi connectivity on phones and tablets. (Only available for iOS devices.)
  • Is there a back-up plan? Does your venue have a procedure in place in case of an outage? Are there generators on-site? Do they have technicians available on event night to fix problems that might arise?

Choosing a Venue

 If you’re still in the stage of choosing your venue, here are some important online bidding suggestions and requirements to keep in mind:

Tip:Make sure you have contact information for a technical person at the hotel in case of technical difficulties.
  • Plenty of outlets. With guests using their smart phones and other internet-capable devices, some of them are bound to need a charge-up. Make sure you’re wired to provide it!
  • Good flow. Look for a venue where guests can easily discern how to get to the registration table once they park and enter the building. Avoid placing check-in behind huge poles or in awkward spaces—give people room to congregate. And arrange your silent auction packages with plenty of room to breathe! People who are crammed together—even without the added burden of making space for bid sheets—won’t be happy people, and won’t spend as much time ogling packages and bidding on them.
Tip: Consider setting up a charging station at your event (or a Mobile Juice Bar) with a variety of charging cables for guests who run out of juice.
  • Good lighting. People will be spending a lot of time looking at their devices—it’s key that guests can see the packages they’re bidding on, and the tiny screens they’re using to bid, too.
  • Space and equipment for a leaderboard. Leaderboards are fantastic for those guests who don’t have a bidding device, because it tells them who’s in the lead for winning live and silent auction packages. Guests who want to participate in the auction can locate a Bid Assistant to help them place a bid and keep track of the current winner on the leaderboard. (Make sure you have good lighting for the leaderboard—and a place to plug in your display screen or TV!)

What if we’re committed to this venue, but it’s not ideal for online bidding?

 If your venue can’t do anything about connectivity dead spots (e.g. cell reception), you still have some options.

  • If dead spots are isolated to a few areas, consider how you could re-arrange your event to minimize the amount people in that room who will need a connection. Perhaps you could use a room with a dead connection to store packages for item pickup—or use it as your volunteer break room.
  • Consider sticking with traditional bidding for this year, and start early next year looking for a new venue with better connectivity options.
  • Ask your venue to set up a separate wi-fi connection for your event guests. This is a good thing to have anyway if you can get it, to avoid the connection being overloaded by other hotel guests not in attendance at your event.

Good luck! And remember, the better experience you can provide for your guests using the new bidding technology, the more they’ll bid and the more you’ll raise!

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