Want to generate more donor interest and make your silent auction more profitable? The secret to a successful auction is hiding in plain sight: presentation. 

Retailers know this by heart, but if you’re new to the idea, consider taking a shopping trip. Stores study how to display, group, and describe their merchandise to capture our interest and convince us to buy. How an item is presented is arguably more important than the inherent value of the item itself when it comes to generating sales. When it comes to presentation—in stores or at a silent auction—people love to see:

Creative display.

Have you ever seen a store display of ten boring items and felt like, “Wow! I have to have one right now!” We thought not. But catching your eye with a creative or themed display just might get you to add an item to your cart, even if it wasn’t on your list. The same is true for your silent auction!

Conceptual groupings.

Imagine how a concept or theme could help to build interest for your silent auction items. Rather than listing a dinner for two, limo rental, and symphony tickets separately, make a bigger impact with one exciting “Night to Remember” item.

Cohesive variation.

The human eye is attracted to some variation—of heights, sizes, and shapes, for example—as long as something holds it all together. Grouping items of similar color, using an odd number of items in a group, and keeping different levels symmetrical captures interest while not being too visually distracting. Help your guests stay focused and bid more often by balancing interest with visually pleasing arrangements.

Creating Your Silent Auction Showcase

You can easily apply retail lessons to your silent auction. Once you’ve collected your items, spend some time thinking about the best ways to present them.

Tell a story.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and we’d argue that the same is true for your silent auction item displays. Grouping similar items around a theme (think beach trip, picnic, sporting events, wine tasting…) that helps your guests envision how great it would be to win those items.

Consider your space.

Where will your silent auction be held? Do you have options for display? Could you spice up plain tables with additional stands and levels? Do you have room for a themed grouping? Is there any way to use lighting or backdrops to your advantage?

Learn some rules.

Savvy merchandizers know that the human eye is drawn to odd numbers and symmetry. Remember to display items in groups of three, arrange items by size and shape in a roughly symmetrical fashion, and group items around a focal point.

Writing Better Item Descriptions

Once you’ve imagined the best possible displays, you’ll need to write creative descriptions for your silent auction items.

Start with catchy titles.

Always lead with an eye-catching headline! When scrolling through your list of items, you want to capture attention with a funny, clever, or exciting title.

Set the scene.

Help your silent auction bidders imagine winning each item. Share a story, establish a need for or benefits from owning the item, and build buzz for why this item is a must-have.

Include the details.

People hesitate to bid on open-ended items. Be sure to include dates, times, restrictions, or options whenever possible.

High-impact visual displays and vivid descriptions boost silent auction results, and provide a more fun and engaging experience for your guests. Interested in taking your next silent auction to the next level? Download our free guide, How to Get the Most Out of Your Silent Auction Items, for more detailed insights and best practices collected from hundreds of successful silent auction events around the country.

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