Help! What To Do When Your Silent Auction Guests Lose Focus

Regardless of how many strategies you employ, you may find your silent auction staggering under an audience that has lost its focus.

It’s a problem your emcee may notice first, but it’s problem he cannot solve with his engaging personality alone.

Find out more about working with a silent auction audience in Greater Giving’s webinar “Power Up Your Auction Revenue Through Creative and Strategic Refinement” with Mission Limelight’s CEO Talena Barker. In it you’ll learn tactics to bring the audience’s attention back to auction.

How to tell if your audience is losing interest?

There are early indicators to watch for that will tell you if your audience’s attention is starting to drift away from the auction. Begin your search for answers by asking a few questions.

  • What point are you in the program?
  • Has dinner just been served, or is it finished and the dishes are being cleared by the waitstaff?
  • Has a speaker gone long, with a complex bit of information?
  • How much time has passed since the start of your auction?
  • If you find your audience’s attention wandering, it could indicate a change in your program is called for next year.

A change in the physical environment can tell you something about the attention being paid to the auction. Take a moment to stop what you’re doing and really listen to the noise level in the room. What are you hearing?

  • Does the noise increase for an extended period of time?
  • Is it outside the dialog, or call and response activity of the emcee?
  • Is it getting quieter in the room, with more empty seats as people wander outside to make a call or take a cigarette break?
  • Do you notice heads beginning to bob as your guests try to keep from nodding off during a slide show presentation?

What can you do to keep your audience focused?

Be aware of the situation and monitor your guests from the beginning to get a good read on the state of your audience. As the program progresses, check in occasionally to see if you notice a lack of focus, then ask yourself if you see any of the changes mentioned above. If you do, employ attention grabbing tactics to get the audience back on the right track.

  • Have your team members move around the room and re-engage the most distracted guests. Position people near the stage, on either side of the room, and a few in the back. Have them speak to the guests about the activity and point out interesting aspects of the presentation.
  • Send people out into the areas outside your venue where people gather to let them know what they are missing and invite them back inside. (Of course, if someone is busy on their phone it is not wise to interrupt them.)
  • Lead your audience in an activity that gets them moving. They may be suffering from sitting too long. Take a break in the program to have them get up and stretch or dance and sing. This is a great way to lift up the energy in the room.
  • Use technology to shine a spotlight on your auction. Send a group text message to your guests to announce an especially appealing package or detail from the auction. This is  a very effective tactic today, when so many people are hyper-attuned to checking their phones. You can post the message across large screens around the venue for people who have wandered outside the room to make a call.
  • Staying active on social media and encouraging your guests to join in on the fun can get them involved in what is going on the auction. Have your team regularly post photos and messages regarding the auction and ask your emcee to invite people to share those messages on their social media pages.
  • A great emcee will be able to hold the audience’s attention with ease. If not, you might want to offer tips on injecting enthusiasm or humor into their presentation. Oftentimes, laughter has a domino effect, where one table begins to laugh, then other tables want to find out what is going on.

What not to do

Above all else, don’t let your emcee call out any one group or individual. This is an underhanded play that will produce only negative emotions. Instead, let him know he can pick up the mood by celebrating the great evening and the people who are there to give.

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