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Creating the Perfect Auction Checkout

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We all know the importance of first impressions. So much so, that it’s easy to forget the one thing that can derail even the most perfect meeting: last impressions. Whether in a job interview or on a first date, how we decide to part ways with a person can make or break all of the events preceding it. The same principle rings true when we’re talking about the last step of a successful auction. Here are a few keys to running a great check-out and leaving a great impression.

The idea of being fully prepared is too often dismissed as a bit unrealistic, when in reality, you should begin to think of it as an achievable necessity for your events.

The Advantage of Being Prepared

The idea of being fully prepared is too often dismissed as a bit unrealistic, when in reality, you should begin to think of it as an achievable necessity for your events. Allowing yourself adequate time to prepare tables and assemble staff is vital to running a smooth checkout.

A common mistake is undervaluing the time that you have during the event. For example, if your auction has check in from 7:00pm till 8:00pm with a plan to begin checkout at 9:30, you are provided with an hour and a half of downtime where guests are bidding and mingling. Don’t allow this time to go to waste. If you were unable to set up tables and supplies for checkout beforehand, then utilize this window in between to do so. If you managed to already organize tables and supplies, there are still ways to stay productive. Arguably, the most important pieces to operating a successful checkout are your volunteers.

Make the decision to have your staff assembled and ready to begin thirty minutes ahead of schedule. While that specific amount of time isn’t a hard or fast rule, the principle behind it is wise to adopt for a number of reasons. First, the thirty-minute rule of thumb allows you to easily identify and handle any unforeseen hiccups before they throw a wrench into your event. Running out of papers or being told that one of your volunteers didn’t show aren’t reasons to panic if you give yourself the time to remedy the problem. The last thing that you’ll want is being made aware of an issue when you already have guests lining up at your tables to leave.

And that leads into the second reason for why you should be ready to begin before your guests arrive. Whether it’s to get home for work the next morning or relieving a babysitter, chances are your attendants have structured their schedule around the checkout time you’ve provided. The sour unprofessionalism of delaying those plans is exactly the type of final impression you want to steer away from for your event.

The Perfect Layout

Now that we’ve reviewed the attitude for running your checkout, we can dive into the nitty gritty details of setup and preparation. The first order of business is tackling the physical layout for your checkout stations. We advise having two separate tables with an adequate amount of space (at least 6ft) in between them to prevent donor overlap. The first table will operate as your payment station for bidders to finalize their purchase and the second will act as a pickup table for them to receive their items. If possible, situate these tables so they are set off from the rest of your event. If you’re able to do so with a closed door, that works even better! This simple trick will cut down on the overwhelming congestion of checkout lines spilling into your main crowd as well as prevent guests from attempting to checkout before your team is ready. Next, organizing your volunteers to run these tables is the foundation of your checkout. We’ve organized a list of the job positions and numbers you will need for a mid-sized event of 500-800 people.

  • Two Volunteer/Staff as Ushers to Direct Traffic
  • Two Volunteer/Staff at Payment Table
  • Three or Four Volunteer/Staff at Pickup Table
  • Four or Five Volunteer/Staff Package Runners

To explain what exactly these jobs mean, we’ll start with your ushers. Before guests reach the pickup or payment table, your ushers will assist in guiding traffic. If a donor has already paid for their item through mobile bidding, they can be directed straight to the pickup table for their item. If not, however, the usher will direct the bidder to the payment table, where once information has been finalized, they will move on to item pickup. Your pickup table will comprise of three or four volunteers who will look up a bidder’s information and identify their items. Behind this same table, you will want to provide four or five runners  who can retrieve the items for the bidders. Understand that you do not want those who are working the pickup table to also have the job of retrieving the items. This small misstep can greatly slow down the entire checkout process.

A helpful tip is to for your volunteers at the pickup table to provide runners with slips of paper that have the item information. While a simple addition to the system, it streamlines the process by allowing your runners to even retrieve more than one item at a time.

Mobile Bidding: The Key to Staying On Schedule

With tables and volunteers set, you’re ready to begin the checkout process. And yet the question remains, How do I ensure that checkout runs smoothly from start to finish?  Checkout is one of many areas where making full use of your silent auction software can effectively alleviate potential problems.

In the past, the payment table has been a formidable roadblock to having a smooth checkout. Volunteers often have to handle time-consuming variables such as filling out payment information, problems with a donor’s card, or a request to pay with two different cards. In short, it’s a piece of the puzzle that can easily clog up an otherwise well-prepared event. The way you will drastically cut down on this issue is by encouraging your guests to pay from their phone through mobile bidding. Thirty minutes before checkout begins, utilize your silent auction software to send your bidders a mass message text or have your MC make an announcement about the mobile bidding option. Be sure to highlight for your guests that paying from their phone will allow them to skip the payment line and pick up their items immediately. This often evokes a very positive response and a majority of your guests will gladly participate.

Placing this strategy in hand with your usher system, which will direct mobile bidders straight to the pickup table, creates a far more enjoyable process for both guests and staff.


  1. Be Ready to Begin Before Your Guests
  2. Organize Volunteers and Tables
  3. Utilize Mobile Bidding

Taking the time to not only exhibit professionalism and capability during the event, but also as you are sending guests home, will speak volumes for your credibility. Silent auction software and the breakthroughs of mobile bidding are a formidable tool to accomplishing this goal.

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