How to Set Up + Display Silent Auctions

Silent auction display matters – a lot!

silent auctionSo you’ve managed to procure a bunch of fabulous, drool-worthy items for your silent auction. Great job! But now the real strategic work begins. Did you know the ways in which you display your items has a HUGE impact on your bottom line? And by display, we don’t just mean how you set up tables. We’re talking lighting, spacing, color, language, even bid sheets – especially bid sheets – you’ll want to take all of this into account in order to make the most money you possibly can. Here are a few of our tried- and-true best practices for fantastic silent auction displays.

Physical Layout

Where you station the sale will directly determine how well the silent auction does. Do not – we repeat – DO NOT line the perimeter of the room with sale items. Do not push sale tables against the walls – as we like to say, “Don’t put Baby in the corner!” Choose areas front and center, with plenty of room for foot traffic on all sides, when curating a silent auction sales environment. Strategically place sales opportunities on the way to highly-trafficked areas, like the bar. Fashion the flow of traffic to have to mingle with your sale items – not by chance, but by your intentional design.

Avoid “L” or “U” shaped layouts, corners, or anything that might interfere with your bidders’ mobility, such as big pillars or planters. Another thing to avoid? Crowding! Americans require much more physical space when browsing and buying than you might imagine. Allow for at least two feet of space between items on tables. Seriously. Don’t skimp on space. It decreases sale prices.

And think outside the table! When possible, utilize aerial display space. Stagger item heights on tables using props for elevation. This helps highlight silent auction packages attractively and effectively, thereby increasing their sale prices. 

Let there be light! Silent auction areas must be well-lit to showcase the fabulous offerings and to allow for reading item descriptions, as well as highlighting any exciting or valuable pieces. Lighting positively influences sale prices so always use it to your advantage. (Lighting is huge. Absolutely huge, in so many ways! Keep checking back – we’ll talk more about the importance of lighting in future blogs.)

Bid Sheets 

Nothing to it, right? Just put the item name on a sheet of paper and throw a few rows under it? Not so fast! First, sweat package titles. A lot. A catchy title goes a long way towards drumming up excitement, so write these with exciting, compelling language. Use color and fantastic visuals on bid sheets. Color is always more eye-catching and appealing than black and white! Increase font sizes, so bidders can read sheets from several feet away. As for restrictions, if applicable – list them in smaller, lighter font, thus keeping the focus on the sales benefits of each item. Consider incentivizing your sale with “Buy it Now” lines or a “Green Line” or similar raffle to stimulate bidding. Not sure what these are? Reach out! 

The Formula

Who knew there was math and psychology involved in silent auction bid sheets?! Well, there is. And we’re here to teach you what we know. There are many best practices and statistics we share with our partners. And we’d love to share them with you.

A brief but important reminder – unless your state laws prohibit the practice, do not list retail values on bid sheets. This creates a psychological buying ceiling, limiting giving. 

Want more in-depth advice on silent auction display? We’re here to help. Reach out – we honestly can’t get enough of talking about this stuff! Happy fundraising.