The Ultimate School for Auctioneers

The Ultimate School for Auctioneers
There are few opportunities where you can build your business skills (for free) and help the community at the same time. It’s time to roll up your sleeves and volunteer for a local charity auction. John Shore recounts his experiences as a volunteer auctioneer and marvels at the joy it brings to those involved.

“I can’t think of a better place to practice than at a local school trivia night or the Church fete auction and it really does not matter what you’re selling.”

“Please don’t ask for payment as this is the ultimate school for auctioneers – you should be paying them for allowing you to practice!”

Hone your skills and do something nice. I love the saying, “I hope you get to Heaven an hour before the devil knows you’re dead.” We in real estate are not held in the lofty heights among the community that we would like to be. Therefore, anything we can do to lift our image (which has been tarnished by only a few) should be welcomed with open arms.

Over the past 30 years I have been conducting charity auctions and have been amused at the number of auctioneers who shy away from them. Whilst training young novice auctioneers in a previous life as CEO of Ray White Victoria, as well as at the Real Estate Institute of Victoria (REIV), I have been astounded at the perception of auctioneers that a charity event is so much different to being out there on a Saturday morning or afternoon in front of 30 or 40 people. Granted, 1200 people at Crown Palladium Ballroom is a little different, however 30 to 40 parents at the local kinder can’t be that daunting.

I recently had the pleasure of being the Master of Ceremonies at the REIV Auction Conference and Senior Auctioneers Competition which Adrian Buttera won for Compton & Green. There it was discussed how auctioneers these days need to be having more of a conversation with the potential buyers, be much less robotic with more “ad lib” and be adaptable to any situation. I can’t think of a better place to practice than at a local school trivia night or the Church fete auction and it really does not matter what you’re selling. Over the years I have sold one single can of VB, an unfrozen frozen chook and once I had The Downing Street Years book signed by Margaret Thatcher “To Paul – best wishes, Maggie.” I first had to find out if there were any Pauls in the room or if anyone knew a Paul. A show of hands got the bidding started.

One of my favorite auctions each year, this year being my tenth year, is an auction at the Eildon Boat Club in South East Victoria. This is where all the house boat owners and the Lions Club of Warrandyte donate items from a small teddy bear to tickets in a box at the MCG. All the money raised goes to Canteen, assisting young people living and affected by Cancer. Each year they promise there will be less items, however, there always seems to be about 150 – commencing at 8.30pm, going through to about 11pm. What a wonderful test of counting, concentration and crowd control. You can imagine how much alcohol is consumed, but they are very generous and raise lots of money.

Bill Wellwood is probably Australia’s most recognisable charity auctioneer with his shiny jacket and top hat. Unfortunately we lost Bill in July this year – a great loss not only to his family but to the community at large. Doing a two-hander with Bill was always fun and I could never see half the bids he could, but he always assured me they were all there. Bill was the first person to sell “absolutely nothing” at the end of every auction and with Bill’s blessing I have been selling “absolutely nothing” for the past 20 years or so. The record for “nothing” was set on 27th July 2010 which smashed the previous record of $6,200 set in Sydney a few years ago. The new record was at the Plaza Ballroom in Melbourne at an event this year for TLC for Kids – they supply the distraction boxes for children in hospitals as well as helping many other families with sick children in ways that mean so much. This night was special. They had not had a ball fund raiser for two years and only had nine auction items, but they were good ones. A trip to Las Vegas with accommodation was the main auction item but when it came down to the last item – “absolutely nothing” – the bidding was furious up to about $3,000. Tim Colnolan, the CEO, interrupted the auction to explain to me that an unexpected large truck full of “absolutely nothing” had just arrived and we had much more of it to sell. Well, off went the bidding again, with much fun being had in the room. It got down to three tables, one of which reached $5,200. I was about to sell “absolutely nothing” to them when the table next to them said, “What if we match their $5,200 for absolutely nothing?” I could see no problem with that as we had a truck full of it out the back! Then to my delight and surprise the next table said they would match it as well and then another. So a trip to Vegas sells for $19,000 and we gain $20,800 for absolutely nothing. What a wonderful world we live in!

Back to not enough charity auctioneers. These jobs don’t just come to you, you must go out and get them. When you see an article in the local paper for a charity auction, give the organiser a call as they will welcome you with open arms. However, please don’t ask for payment as this is the ultimate school for auctioneers – you should be paying them for allowing you to practice! Your next house auction will be outstanding.

John’s tips for great charity auctions
1. Get the list of items a few days prior to auction
2. Get the reserves if they have any
3. Try not to use a lectern
4. Don’t hold one piece of paper with the items list if you a little nervous
5. Use a hand held microphone if possible
6. If you have many items knock them down quickly – burn the first one if you have to so they know your style – make sure it’s a cheapie
7. The more props you have the better – use everything, unwrap everything (time permitted)
8. Walk amongst the crowd and run from one bidder to the next
9. Have fun
10. Just “have a crack”

John Shore, Director Principal of Ray White Chelsea, Victoria is a highly respected agent with over 30 years of experience and has trained and coached many auctioneers around Australia – from novice to experienced. John conducts approximately 20 charity auctions a year as well as many house auctions.

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