Auction Tips

How Silent Auctions help Humans rise above Goldfish - Benefits of Silent Auctions Part 2 of 3

Keep donors attention with an online silent auction
Keep donors attention with an online silent auction

Picking up where we left off in our last post about "Are Silent Auctions Dead?" We had identified 3 benefits to running a Silent Auction and covered one of them last time.

Using a silent auction to keep donors connected

In this post we will talk about another benefit: capturing the attention of your guests!

Don't take this the wrong way, I am sure your event is really fun. But people are often there for hours, and lets face it, people's attention span is getting shorter, NOT longer.

In fact, a recent study conducted by Microsoft found that an increasingly digitized lifestyle (consisting of multiple simultaneous stimuli) has dropped the average person's attention span from 12 seconds down to 8!


8 seconds  


9 seconds!

Even a goldfish pays attention for longer than 8 seconds (9 to be precise). But, we can't fill our ballroom with goldfish, so we have to work with what we have: a highly distracted audience of humans.

So how do we focus the attention span of all of our guests? We don't (because the reality is - we can't). Instead of trying to change people's behavior for a single night, we need to embrace their behavior.

We all want our guests to pay attention to our program, speakers, and our auctioneer; and, we now know that we are battling the tendency for guests to be distracted. So our best option is to give them multiple things to do that relate to our event: listen to the program, mingle with friends, participate in games, and bid in a silent auction!

Yes that is right, a silent auction will actually help focus your guests on your event MORE than it will distract them from it.

When we review an event run-of-show with our clients, sometimes they intend to "close" the silent auction prior to the program or live auction or plan to "pause" it. When asked, the reason given is typical: Our Board (or Live Auctioneer) wants the guests paying attention to them and not to their phones.

But the key part of that assumption is that if you turn off the silent auction then your guests will put their phone down and pay attention to the speaker or bid in the live auction. That is a dangerous assumption.

Remember, humans have an attention span of 8 seconds and live in a world that is dominated by digital interruptions (texts, push messages, etc.) So let's face it, your guests are going to be on their phones regardless of whether you have your silent auction running or not. So when that phone buzzes and they pick it up, it better to be because they were outbid than because their friend just tagged them in a Facebook post.

While this position may seem a bit controversial, you need to trust us that we have seen a lot of events that have tried this both ways. We don't see any real change in behavior (e.g. people being focused) when a silent auction is stopped during a program or live auction.



Here are 5 key points we want to make regarding distractions and attention to wrap this up:

  1. Your guests are going to be on and off their phones regardless of how engaging your program is. You might as well give them something to do when they pick it up (e.g. check bids).
  2. Guests who want to bid in the live auction will. Shutting down the silent auction does not turn silent auction bidders into live auction bidders (very different types of people bid in those).
  3. Want to see something uber-disruptive? Try shutting down your silent auction before your live auction starts and watch people get up to go out and try to checkout (yes this will happen).
  4. Do you want to minimize distractions in the room? Keep people in their seats. How do you do that? Mobile bidding and shutting down the bar. Serve wine at the table during the program and prevent people from the back and forth to the bar.
  5. Knowing that your guests are going to "wander," you need to give them multiple touchpoints into your event (not just a paddle raise or live auction). Silent auctions with mobile bidding can keep them stay connected to your event. Especially when you use a system like Handbid to push out broadcast messages to them regularly.

We cover this example and others in our "3 Benefits to Silent Auctions eBook" that you can download and review.