You must absolutely market your Live Auction items before the event.
This may be obvious to some of you, but you'd be surprised how many events I've shown up at where the guests had no idea what was on the Live Auction that night.
Start Soliciting your items early
One reason most organizations don't market their items is because until the last minute, they have no idea what they are. As soon as you think about planning your event and setting a date, start talking about live auction items. Brainstorm them with your team and take action on pursuing the items.
Get firm commitments and all the details from your item donors ASAP
As soon as you think you have an item. Close the deal. As soon as you have the firm (hopefully written) commitment from the donor, get all of the details including pictures, dates, etc so you can start an item write up early on in the event planning process. The more you know ahead of time, the more effectively you'll be able to market your items during the planning process.
Feature the items in the Save-The-Date
Because we are focusing on spectacular items that are exclusive and offer a broad appeal (see my video from Monday if you aren't sure what I'm talking about), you are going to want to tease your guests with these items from the moment they think about the event. This will help them to prepare accordingly. If they are already thinking about taking a trip in the next year, they can plan to bid on the trip in your auction.
Help them remember the items are 100% for a good cause
I welcome you to use tag lines like:
"A trip that's for the kids, except you don't have to bring your own."
"A dinner experience that feels as good as it tastes."
Ths is a playful way to remind them that while they are getting amazing items, they are also supporting your organization. It's more than a large purchase.
Share the items in your email and social media communications leading up to the event
The two weeks or so before the event, send out emails and social media posts featuring the items. You want your bidders to be thinking about these as they plan the budget for the evening. Whether you like it or not, everyone comes to your event with a budget in mind, but you can help them determine whether they will spend their $5,000 at your event or at the one the following night, by letting them know what you have to offer.
If you are sending things via social media, share it multiple times because everything moves so fast online and you don't want anyone to miss it.
Feature them online through your mobile bidding website
Even though bidding is not available online for the live auction items, you should still list it on your mobile bidding website. Most companies allow you to have items that aren't open, but you can list a picture, description and all the nitty gritty details for your guests to view before they arrive.
Some organizations mail out programs in advance. This can get expensive because most people forget to bring the program to your event, so you have to print twice as many. This is a great alternative.
Keep marketing them the night of the event
Most of you know to have a clearly marked display of the live auction items where everyone can view them. While this is so necessary it still doesn't give people all the time they need to read all the details they need to make an informed decision. All of the items should be listed and described with all the details in the program as well.
I recommend printing the live auction items and putting them on the doors of the bathroom stalls and by the line at the bar. This is a perfect place where you have a captive audience to view the items.
Why this is so important:
You want your guests to come to your event with the decision to bid so that you can leave it up to your auctioneer to get them to give beyond their budget.
It is much more impactful to get more money out of a guest who already decided they wanted the item. They've been thinking about it for weeks and will be disappointed if they don't win it. Compare this to springing live auction items on your guests and expecting them to drop $1,000 let alone $10,000+ without any prior thought.