Don't Let a Bad Sound System "Steal" Your Money
Proper sound will be covered here, proper lighting will be addressed in the next tip in this series
It drives me nuts. I work for months with a client showing them all the subtle ways to increase their income and make the event more enjoyable for their guests, than at the last moment, someone on the committee figures they can save a few dollars and "go cheap" on the sound system. It is very possible (I have personally experienced it) that for the "saving" of $1,000 on a rented sound system, the client lost $10,000 or more in lost bids. Don't let this happen to you! Sound is one of the most important details you must pay attention to if you want a successful live and silent auction. Too often it is looked at as an expense that can be cut because "we can just use the house sound at the hotel." NO!
Remember, the built in sound at nearly all hotels, country clubs and banquet venues (99.9 %) is designed for one purpose: An after dinner or lunch guest speaker, a wedding, or other quiet social gathering where the entire audience is expected to listen to the one person in the room with the microphone, the guest speaker. Not so at an auction. Built in sound is NEVER designed for an auction, where hundreds of people are all talking, PLUS the auctioneer must be understood. In a noisy room, the built in sound systems are just mush, and there is a good reason for this.
Consider WHERE the speakers are installed in a built-in system - in the ceilings! The speakers are small and useful for not much more than a moderate level of sound. The louder the volume is set in these small speakers, the worse the sound gets. Sound travels in a straight line and does not BEND, it must be REFLECTED to change directions. So, since no one has ears on the top of their head (they are on the sides, remember?) the ONLY sound you can hear from built in systems MUST have been reflected several times before it enters the ear. It is reflected by numerous things (chairs, tables, walls, the floor, and even PEOPLE) so several iterations of the same words enter the ears at slightly different times. This reflected sound loses its clarity, and, when combined with the sound of hundreds of conversations in the audience, the result is, well "sound soup." A potential bidder that cannot hear what the auctioneer is asking (bid - wise) is reluctant to hold up a bid number, and cumulatively this could cost several bid steps on each item. For a 10 item Live auction, with an average value of $2,500 per item, the loss of a few bid steps on each item could add up to several thousands of dollars. Bad sound is a thief, stealing your money literally by keeping the audience from enjoying the evening, as it inflicts loud, unclear and increasingly annoying noise on them. They will tune out early, and no amount of pleading that they pay attention to the auctioneer will bring them back.
Budget for, and spend a reasonable amount on an auxiliary sound system brought in just for the Live and Silent auctions. For a room with up to 300 people it is possible to rent such a system for well less than $1000. You are looking for a "surround sound" system, four loudspeakers, where one speaker is placed on a stand in each corner of the Live auction room. Don't let the vendor tell you that all the speakers should be in the front of the room! Surround the room with sound for the best results. Each of your guests must be able to hear DIRECT SOUND from a nearby speaker for best results. Each speaker should be on a stand that goes up in the air at least 8 feet.
For rooms with more than 300 people, you might need six or even eight speakers. The cost to rent a system like this will be more than $1000, but less than $1500 in most cases. It is well worth it! The bigger the audience, the more critical it is to have a good sound system! Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like me to send you a complete sound system specification for your event. Let me know how many people you will have as guests, and how many items in your Live auction.
One final comment: Make sure you have a good sound system in the Silent auction area as well so your MC or auctioneer can "pump up" the bids during that auction, highlight items that need attention, and can announce the closing times.
The next TIP in this series will cover LIGHTING in both the Live and Silent Auctions.
Tip # 1 The Diamond Bar Raffle
Tip # 2 Live Auction Sequencing
Often an event will also include a band for dancing after the Live auction. The TRAP is thinking you can use the band's sound system for the Live auctioneer. NO!!! The band puts their speakers on the floor in front of the stage where the dance floor is. In order for the people at the back of the room to hear, the sound must travel THROUGH all the people between them and the stage. By the time the sound travels to the back of the room it is once again, "mush", and so loud in the front as to be uncomfortable for the guest sitting there. So, the people in the front are blasted, and leave early, while the people in the back can't hear, so they leave early. You end up paying for a band to play to an audience that has "left the building!" You should NOT use the band sound for the auction! Also, don't expect the banquet facility to tell you truthfully about the quality of their sound. Assume they will not be honest with you because their corporate ego is involved. Who would admit, on behalf of their employer, "why yes of course, we have inadequate sound for your event!" Assume it is bad, regardless of what they tell you, and bring in your own sound system. After all it is YOUR money that will be earned, or not earned, not the hotels./SPAN