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Smooth Sailing At Check In

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Long LinesI think one of the biggest hurdles we’ve tackled in mobile bidding auctions is the check in process. Typically this is one of the most hectic elements’ and the experience guests have become a measurement of the overall success or failure of the event. No pressure, right? Not to mention that you compete with other events in your community that may or may not have mastered the check in experience.

So what typically needs to happen at check in? Organizations will often want an idea of who attended and who didn’t so there is a “checking off” of a guest or group of guests when they arrive. Also, if the event is seated, then a guest(s) receive a table assignment. When a silent auction, live auction, raffle, etc. is present the organization may wish to hand out bidder numbers and/or get payment information. Guests may also get drink tickets, a bidder paddle, a program or instructions on the event’s outline. Overall, it is’ a centralized location at the beginning of an event where guests inform and get informed.

Ultimately, mobile bidding has essentially opened your auction up to the web and all the places it reaches.
So what causes the pain of check in and what moves it along smoothly? In my experience it comes down to several key elements. First, understanding the layout of the event’s “walking path” is critical. If you have a coat check, step-and-repeat and auction check in you will want to make sure that you can spread them far enough apart to allow for backups. Too close and a slow down’ at auction check in will back up the step-and-repeat and so on. You can assume that backups will occur (hopefully quick and barely noticeable) so the key is to make sure they don’t snowball and impact areas that are running well. Guests will also linger and socialize right away and create their own backups. Having plenty of space between key areas will help other, more focused guests navigate’ around them and keep the lines moving.

Secondly, trying to accomplish too much at check in can slow the process dramatically. In particular, when integrating mobile bidding to an event, the temptation is to try and get as much data possible. I’ll talk about getting payment’ information in a bit.’ During check in however trying to capture phone, email, home address, credit card and so on can create frustration and delay that will leave guests waiting needlessly. It’s better to get the essentials (mobile phone and name) and capture the rest at check out when there’s less impact’ than to capture it all for everyone when many won’t even participate in the auction. My rule of thumb is this, capturing a credit card is more important when you have intangible elements in your event such as raffle and fund-a-need. This means many guests can purchase or donate but would not need to “check out”. This can lead to guests walking out with giving a credit card. If, however, your event is mostly silent items and live items, then you can count on guests picking up their items and therefore giving a credit card at check out. Again, we’ll talk about how to lighten the burden of’ capturing cards at before the event’ without slowing things down.

Floor Plan Diagram
Always think about the layout.

Lastly, a bar can definitely draw a large crowd for obvious reasons. I have seen events that try to bring bars as close as possible to check in. The challenge is that there is almost always a line and therefore a crowd. Even when people have their drinks I commonly’ see guests lingering within 2 or 3 steps of the bar, socializing with friends.

As you can imagine, one or two of these issues can quickly bind up your event from starting smoothly. What to do? Based on our expertise on mobile bidding, I can certainly address best practices with your auction check in. Let’s break it down.

First, since your auction is a mobile bidding auction, you should definitely let guests pre-register and therefore pre-check into the auction. Ideally, you want to know that they plan to attend and that you have a method of payment to make check out easier. Taking a cue from airlines, send out an email the night before the auction allowing guests to register and/or confirm their existing registration. Then, at the event,’ have a volunteer or two greet people and ask if they pre-registered. If so, they can keep walking and find that bar. This thins your crowd dramatically so there’s never a line.

Second, if your only check in is for mobile bidding try this. Completely remove check in and station a few volunteers’ around the room as’ concierge bidders/assistants. Position a few signs to tell guests that they can sign up for mobile bidding using a web address or QR code. You can also send the registration link a few times before your auction to get your guests started. Not having a table or two with 6 or more volunteers lined up clears out the clutter and bottleneck of your event. Guests that can cruise right through will love it.

Ultimately, mobile bidding has essentially opened your auction up to the web and all the places it reaches. This means you can think outside of your physical location and allow guests not only the option to bid from anywhere but also register and do some of the check in work early. This saves huge amounts of time and effort at the event, letting your guests focus on engaging with your organization and fellow supporters.

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