"We have a local radio personality emcee our program. She also handles our live auction and paddle raise. I’m wondering what could happen if we pair her with a professional? "
If you've been following Winspire News, you know hiring a professional benefit auctioneer maximizes the revenue raised from every live auction item. Should the auctioneer also be the emcee for the evening?
The answer to the question, "Do we need an auctioneer and an emcee?", depends (as usual) on your auctioneer and event.
Option A: Keep 'Em Separate!
"You’ll get more of your money’s worth if you get someone else to be your emcee, and allow me to be the facilitator of giving," asserts Scott Robertson, benefit auctioneer.
Below are just a few reasons he prefers to stick to the live auction instead of emceeing.
Reason #1: Pump up the audience
Introducing the auctioneer for the live auction is a popular way to go because it gets the audience pumped up and excited for the live auction when it begins. Often, auctioneers for big galas prefer to be introduced and perform only for the live auction.
"As the hired gun, I think the auctioneer ought to be reserved for excitement and to facilitate giving," Robertson says. "If the auctioneer is also the emcee, they’re not going to come out with a spark."
He cautions, "They can make announcements during silent auction, that sort of thing, but if you get them actively involved beforehand, you’re losing some of the energy that they would have generated when they first come out on the stage."
Reason #2: Smoother transitions
Another reason you might use a separate emcee, is to facilitate the transition between the rest of your program and the live auction. The smoother the transitions throughout the night, the more successful your event is going to be.
"Interruptions and abrupt transitions cost you money - and you won’t be able to put your finger on why," Robertson says. "I think everybody should be introduced. They should never walk up and introduce themselves."
"I always put walkup music for people who are going to speak. The emcee plays the music, then says, 'And now our board chair, Susie!' It only takes 3 seconds to walk up to the podium, but music gives a little energy opposed to everybody being quiet or just talking among themselves. Susie gets to her place, clears her throat and starts. She can do all that while the music’s playing. It makes for a nice segue and nice transition," Robertson explains.
If you plan your agenda correctly, the emcee really won't have that much time on the mic. They will only be in charge of welcoming and directing guests in transition, making announcements, and introducing speakers, as well as the auctioneer.
Reason #3: Involves non-auctioneers
The live auction is the biggest revenue generator of the night, so you don't want to cut corners by having an amateur or celebrity auctioneer.
"Oftentimes nonprofits will have a 'celebrity reader,' like the local newscaster, describe the items. The issue is this non-paid volunteer does not feel the need to really do their homework and simply reads the description in their book, which they started to study 15 minutes before the auction," Robertson points out.
A professional auctioneer takes the same information but puts it into a sales pitch with a strong opening sentence: one that focuses on an item's overall purpose, hits the high points of the features, then rounds out the bottom of the pitch with a final benefit.
"If the committee has a celebrity they want to feature in the event, I prefer them to do the emcee duties," adds Doug Sorrell, benefit auctioneer. "In many instances this includes reading a script thanking sponsors and so forth. Celebrities are accustomed to reading from prepared texts....me, not so much. I can if necessary, but it's not my forte."
Option B: Let the auctioneer emcee!
That said, there are absolutely fundraising auctioneers who happily emcee events for the whole evening. This seems to be more common for smaller, more intimate events.
"Your best fundraising auctioneers are probably going to be excellent emcees as well," asserts Danny Hooper, benefit auctioneer. "You should take advantage of that."
Here are a few common scenarios in which an auctioneer may opt to fulfill both roles.
If they can wear multiple hats
"Not only do you want your emcee to promote the silent auction, but also encourage raffle ticket sales, give lots of love and attention to donors in the super silent auction, and more," Hooper says.
"For example, if somebody has donated their personal jet and it happens to be in the super silent auction, I’ll make sure that donor gets every bit of appreciation for that item as if it was in the live auction. That can be a lot for an amateur to keep track of."
If they're the best for the job
"I'm happy to serve as the emcee, and qualified," Sorrell says. " I don't feel like I'm so special that I can't be the emcee. My intro, if any is used, is simply: 'Here's Doug Sorrell.' I'm always tuxed up, so people know who I am, even if we are at a black tie event."
He continues: "My fee covers advance meetings, consulting, facilitating the evening's live auction, and whatever else the Committee needs. I handle the Heads and Tail raffle and other games. For the silent auction, I focus on the items with no bids and get guests to pay attention to those items. They take pride in assuring every single silent auction item 'gets a new zip code'!"
If they provide all the evening's entertainment
"If you get a really professional fundraising auctioneer, those people hands down will provide all of the entertainment," Hooper asserts. "The live auction is actually the place where most of the entertainment of the evening should be happening anyway."
Bottom Line: Keep the Focus on Fundraising
To maximize revenue, you need to keep the focus on the fundraising. This means following the 3 E's of Event Fundraising: Entertain, Engage and Extract Revenue from the audience.
If it's a tight-knit crowd that the auctioneer knows well, the auctioneer might be an appropriate emcee. But don't try and "get your money's worth" from the auctioneer - only to take all the oomph out of the start of the live auction.
Your turn - Do you typically ask your auctioneer to serve as the night's emcee, or do you keep them separate? Let us know in the comments below!