6 Auction Etiquette Tips You Should Know Before You Raise Your Paddle

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6 Auction Etiquette Tips Everyone Should KnowLeon Neal - Getty Images

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Lydia Fenet, a Christie’s ambassador and the author of The Most Powerful Woman in the Room is You and Claim Your Confidence, has spent a lot of time on an auction stage. She's sold everything from cars and a plot of land in Argentina to ponies and the opportunity to sit on Jon Stewart’s front lawn with him and yell at passing cars. But for her, the joy in charity auctioneering is not as much about the items being auctioned off as it is the incredible nonprofits they benefit. With over half a billion dollars raised for more than 600 nonprofits globally under her belt, Fenet has learned more than a few things about auctions—and about how proper auction etiquette can help keep the bidding fast, fun, focused, and entertaining.

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Auctioneer Lydia Fenet speaking onstage at The UNICEF Gala at The Glasshouse in New York City.Slaven Vlasic - Getty Images

“If you have a crowd that is very motivated to give and then you get them in a room of other people who are motivated to give, and you can harness that excitement and that energy; that’s where you really make money for a nonprofit,” Fenet says. How can bidders join in on that mission? Here, Fenet shares her best auction etiquette tips.

6 Auction Etiquette Tips Everyone Should Know

1. Be prepared.

Before the auction starts, find the brochure or booklet that has information about the auction items, and read it carefully. A lot of organizations will send out this information in advance over email or mail as well. Look for blackout dates and restrictions on trips and homes and think about who else might take partake in the auction item with you. By the time the auctioneer comes on stage, know what you want to bid on. “By doing that prep work, it makes it a seamless experience for everyone,” Fenet says.

2. Have a budget in mind—and stick to it.

“As the auctioneer I often want people to overspend, but as an attendee one thing to think about is what you want to spend,” Fenet says. With the excitement of an auction picks up, it can be easy to keep raising your paddle, especially if you have had that extra cocktail or glass of wine. Be cognizant of what you want to spend and try to stick to that budget so that you don’t end up regretting it.

3. Keep your paddle close.

This might sound obvious, but often bidders put their paddle down somewhere before the auction begins without realizing that their paddle number has been assigned specifically to them. “Otherwise it can be a nightmare for the nonprofit on the back end,” Fenet says.

4. Be a courteous guest.

Don’t talk during the auction and cheer during the bidding to encourage other attendees to pay attention to the auction. Often attendees start talking, and the elevated noise from conversations can take the focus away from the auction. Also be aware of how much you drink. “Drink enough so that you are having fun, but not much that you forget how much you can spend,” Fenet says.

5. Raise your paddle high during bidding.

“Don’t wink, because I am probably 200 feet away on stage with 200 people between us,” Fenet says. “Raise your paddle high. Make it fun and part of the show.” Often people are walking between tables and waiters are picking up items from the table, so the more obvious your paddle raise is, the better.

6. Pay your bill and claim your win in a timely manner.

If you need to pick up your item that night, make sure that you go to the checkout table immediately after the auction. Also be sure to pay your bill at the event or give them your credit card information—however they ask for payment. “You want to help the nonprofit by not [forcing them to] follow up or incur extra fees sending you messaging,” Fenet says.

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