Mobile Bidding: Get Ready to Go Paperless

We get a LOT of questions about how to organize a successful mobile bidding auction. Not just how to set it up in the software — although if you need assistance with that, we can definitely help — but how to run the event itself. We’re not the only people who think about this stuff all the time, so we reached out to one of the most experienced people we know when it comes to managing auction night itself — Jon Bridenbaugh of Streamline Support. In this blog, we’re sharing our combined suggestions.

First, a clarification: although they share many similarities, online auctions and mobile bidding are two different things. Online auctions are exactly that: auctions that are held online. They take place over days or weeks. During that time, your supporters bid from their home or office or wherever they happen to be, using a smartphone, tablet or computer.

Mobile bidding means you’re holding a gala (or other venue-based event), but instead of writing their bids on paper, guests bid using their smartphones. Bidding closes during the event, and items are awarded automatically or manually to their top bidders, depending on your preference.

Online auctions are pretty straightforward. You can see how to set one up here. And mobile bidding can be, too, but there are a few important things to think through when you organize your paperless (or partially paperless) gala. 

1. You need good cell phone reception at your venue. There’s nothing more frustrating — for you or your guests — than people being unable to bid because they can’t get online. Don’t assume your venue has sufficient mobile access. Test it out in advance. Otherwise, you might be scrambling to print paper bid sheets at the last minute, when you discover there’s no signal in the hotel banquet room you’ve rented. (Jon and Streamline Support are happy to provide equipment to help with connectivity issues, too.)

2. If the size of your silent auction has worked well for you in the past, keep it the same for your mobile bidding event. You can even use the same closing time schedule, with staggered closings or a single closing, whichever you prefer.

3. For maximum entertainment value, we suggest using Quick Bids. The software gives you the option of using quick bids (bidders can easily see and select the next possible bid) or max bids (ebay-style bidding). Either will work for your mobile bidding event, but Quick Bids allow for bidding frenzies to develop. This drives up bid totals and adds a really fun element to your silent auction.

4. You’ll want to send your guests and invitation to bid. Which means you’ll need to collect valid email addresses for your attendees. Plus/Premium subscribers can text invites to bid, so collecting mobile phone numbers is a good idea, too. 

5. Open your silent auction early. This is Jon’s number one recommendation for success. Here’s why: “…the learning curve for mobile auctions is significant enough that expecting your guest to walk in to the event at say 6:30, get the link, browse the silent, socialize and figure out how to bid all before the silent closes and dinner starts is asking for trouble. Plus, there is absolutely no downside to opening it early.” He’s right. Even though the software makes mobile bidding intuitive, guests are multitasking as soon as they walk in the door. Why not let them get mobile bidding down earlier?

6. Set up a mobile bidding screen (Plus/Premium only) for items you know will be popular, or for your paddle raise/special appeal, or both. Seeing bidding/giving in real time on a big screen can inspire higher bids. And it’s entertaining. Everyone gets to ooh and aah while watching the bidding wars.

7. Open it early! Yep, we’re saying it again. Because the worst thing that could happen is that someone will place a bid. To us this is a good thing: the more bids on an item the better, right? So why not let your bidders start a day or two before the actual event?

8. Set up a mobile bidding station where folks can get their questions answered quickly. Staff it with the person on your team who best understands how mobile bidding works. They can help anyone who can’t find their invitation to bid, or who placed a bid by mistake (it happens). They can also place proxy bids (Plus/Premium only) for anyone whose battery died or who (gasp!) just didn’t bring their phone with them.

9. Turn on automatic close-out. Unless you particularly want to award each item manually to its winner, let the software do it for you. 

10. Finally, did we mention? Open it early!

If you’d like to give mobile bidding a try, but aren’t ready to commit your entire silent auction to it, you can set up a small number of items for mobile bidding — say 25 or 30 — and keep the rest of your items in traditional paper bidding mode. You and your guests get to see how easy mobile bidding can be, but you’ll have the comfort of the tried-and-true, too. The software — say it with us now — makes it easy for everyone.

Now, what if you do all of the above, and yet things start to…go a little sideways? Stay tuned for our next post, where we talk about the software’s built-in “rescue” tools you can use to get your event back on track.

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