Are Silent Auctions or Live Auctions Better?

Before examining the finer detail of the issue, it’s important to note that the answer to this question is entirely subjective. Both silent auctions and live auctions have their own unique points of appeal, so it’s hard to choose one or the other.

As with most things, it depends entirely on your objectives – i.e. the nature and purpose of the auction.

Hence, instead of labelling one of the two options as ‘better’ than the other, it’s worth taking a look at the pros and cons of each. This way, you’ll know what type of auction to go for, if planning an event in the near future.

Silent Auctions

As the name suggests, a silent auction refers to an event wherein all bids are kept secret – or ‘silent’. Bidders make their offers using printed sheets or a mobile bidding application, without letting anyone else know how much they’ve offered. The highest bidder wins the lot, after which their winning bid may be announced or kept secret. 

The Advantages of Silent Auctions:

  • In some instances, silent auctions encourage higher bids. As you’ve no idea how much the second-highest bidder will offer, you need to bet generously to ensure you win the lot. 
  • A silent auction can also be relatively easy to organise, without the involvement of a skilled or capable auctioneer.
  • Silent auctions are great for running alongside other events, such as workplace parties, business meetings and even formal dinners.
  • The suspense and excitement of not knowing whether or not you’ve won the lot until later in the event is another unique point of appeal.

The Disadvantages of Silent Auctions:

  • Silent auctions that are arranged and managed poorly can quickly lose their energy, appeal and engagement for those who attend. 
  • A silent auction eliminates the excitement and energy that can be generated by an experienced auctioneer.
  • There are some types of silent auctions that can be complex to plan and organise, calling for expert support to ensure a successful outcome.

Live Auctions

These are the more traditional types of auctions, overseen by a lively auctioneer who takes bids for lots in real-time. Live auctions have a tendency to be particularly lively and energised affairs, wherein almost any items, services or experiences can be sold for any given purpose.

The Advantages of Live Auctions:

  • A skilled auctioneer can provide the physical encouragement needed to motivate those in attendance to get involved and place bids. 
  • As a result of the above, some items sell for higher sums when there’s a live auctioneer present at the event.
  • You don’t need any specialist equipment or software to organise a traditional auction, just the basic essentials.
  • Traditional auctions are also known for encouraging competitive bidding – sometimes descending into all-out bidding wars that benefit the event.

The Disadvantages of Live Auctions:

  • In order to hold a successful live auction, you will need to hire or appoint an auctioneer with at least some kind of experience. The auctioneer holds the success of the event in the palm of their hand.
  • For obvious reasons, it can be more difficult to run a successful live auction alongside another event, due to the logistics involved.
  • Some people will not feel comfortable bidding publicly, or will perhaps stand down earlier than they might to allow a friend or colleague to win an item.
  • Depending on the size and nature of the event, a traditional auction can be much more expensive to organise and run than a simple silent auction. 

It’s therefore clear that both traditional auctions and silent auctions have their own unique pros and cons. Irrespective of the type of auction you intend to run, consulting with an established service provider like Superstars can be helpful.  Even if it’s only for a few pointers, expert support could ensure the success of your auction.

Other than this, there are several key considerations that should be used to guide your decision. Examples of which include the following:

  • What kinds of items do you intend to sell and how much are they worth? 
  • Exactly who do you intend to invite to the auction?
  • Can you afford to hire a professional auctioneer?
  • Will you need silent auction software to allow participants to bet?
  • Would you prefer to run your auction alongside another event?
  • What is your total budget for the auction?

Once you’ve covered these points, you’ll be in a much better position to determine which type of auction suits you best. Alternatively, contact an experienced auctions specialist like Superstars if you need further advice or support. 

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