3 tips on how to be a great auctioneer

There's an art to auctioneering – and it's more than just having the confidence to get up in front of a crowd.

Auctions are increasingly popular in the capital cities and even in regional areas, too. For instance, according to REIV, regional Victoria hosted 2,771 auctions in 2014, compared to 1,419 the previous year.

If you’re going to be a successful auctioneer, it's important to nail the basics. I’ve been training novice auctioneers for more than five years and I like to think of auctioneering as a creative talent. So here are my top tips for becoming a great auctioneer.

1. Preparation
It’s important to have a plan for how the auction will unfold. Agents are often taught that buyers will throw numbers at you, but this isn’t always the case. You need to set up the auction so the home sells.

Plan how you want the auction to run and take time to be briefed by the lead agent to discuss how many buyers you should have, price expectations and recent sales in the area. Make your strategy based on this information and do a run-through with the team. You want the best possible outcome for the vendor, so you owe it to them to be properly prepared.

If you don't get the price you want in the first bid, you need to understand the tools you've got at your disposal to get there. It’s a bit like an orchestra – the conductor needs musicians for the show to go on, but if only two show up on the day you need to know how to play things out regardless. Consider the worst-case scenario and know how you’ll handle any curve balls that could be thrown your way.

2. Pace and rhythm
The impression the auctioneer needs to create from the very beginning is that they’re in control and they’re there to help the buyers. If an auctioneer starts off speaking too quickly, looking nervous and stumbling over their words, buyers won’t feel confident about putting their hands up.

If you’re prone to letting nerves or excitement get the better of you, I recommend rehearsing the first two minutes of your auction. Knowing your ‘speech’ inside-out will help you set the pace. Remember to breathe regularly, too – it will help you avoid running out of breath.

There are always moments of nerves, but learning how to control your pace and rhythm will help you perform at your best for the audience.

3. Remembering your numbers
When it comes to taking bids, some people are good at numbers and some struggle. If you’re one of the latter, then you simply need to work harder. You need to be able to add on your feet under pressure – failing to do so will again take away the sense of control.

You don’t have to be a mathematician; it just comes down to practice. One trick I have used to help training auctioneers is to get a deck of cards and throw them out in front of them. They have to add as they go and repeat the number aloud three times. When it comes to numbers, any drill that has you thinking on your feet will help you improve. 

We've seen people come through Hockingstuart’s novice auctioneer training program who find it quite confronting during the first three weeks and want to give up. But once they get more comfortable thinking on their feet, everything seems to click. At the end of the day, it all comes down to preparation, voice penetration and numbers. Nail these and you’ll be on your way to becoming a great auctioneer.

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Mark Staples

Mark Staples

Mark Staples is the director of Hockingstuart Carnegie and senior auction coach for Hockingstuart’s novice auctioneer program.

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