Auctions may be the only situation where poor sound quality can literally cost you tens of thousands of dollars in one night.
It is essential for the auctioneer to be heard well with good articulation, no feedback, smooth, even sound distribution and controlled dynamic range. Compromises in any of these areas can mean disengagement of potential bidders during an event – thus, lost potential revenue.
Good vocal articulation in a sound system reproduces speech comprehensibly. In terms of percentage of speech units uttered that are correctly understood, 100% is the goal for optimum revenue and enjoyment during your event. In most cases, a multiple speaker/zone approach works best. However, most in-house 70-volt ceiling speakers are woefully inadequate for the sound quality needed for successful auctions. Standard in-house systems may be fine for the Rotary Club breakfast meeting the next morning, but successful auctions demand much better clarity, dynamic range and frequency response. High quality speakers and microphones are a must. Ideally, you do not want to have to turn the sound system up too loud anywhere in the room in order for the people in the back to still hear. Multiple speakers ensure a more even distribution of sound in the room, where every listener is important.
While feedback can occur even in the most carefully monitored situations, it should be kept to an absolute minimum. Informed speaker placement and proper microphone handling by the auctioneer can play a big part in avoiding feedback. Another very important part in avoiding feedback is good equalization of the system. This is done with a device called a 1/3-octave equalizer. Like anything else in a sound system, you need quality, particularly with equalizers. Inexpensive equalizers can cause more trouble than they prevent. A well-equalized sound system will dramatically reduce the chances of feedback occurring and will improve the overall sound and articulation, avoiding irritation and distraction for your audience.
Compression for the human voice is a must when it is amplified through a sound system. The human voice has very wide dynamic range. From a whisper to a scream, an uncompressed/uncontrolled sound system can be very uncomfortable and sometimes even painful to the ears. An auctioneer’s voice will get particularly loud in the excitement of competitive bidding, and a properly inserted and adjusted compression device greatly improves the overall listening experience for your guests, thus keeping them engaged and participating.
A podium with a microphone is often requested for an auction – highlighting the auctioneer and giving him or her, a place to rest the list of auction items. (Actually, what many people refer as a “podium” is really a “lectern.” A “podium” is something you stand on, often with a lectern in front of you. “Pod” is Greek in origin and means “foot” or “base” as in “podiatrist.” The “lectern” is the stand, usually with a slanted top, upon which the reading material is placed.) Not all microphones are the same, and using a microphone specifically designed for lectern use will give much better audio quality. Gooseneck lectern condenser microphones are much more forgiving in regards to proximity to the person speaking and are very user-friendly in regards to height adjustment when compared to using a large and cumbersome standard typical microphone and microphone stands. Not only are gooseneck condenser microphones superior for ease of use and performance, they also look much better than a giant microphone obscuring the speaker’s face.
Often many months of planning and organizing go into putting together an auction, and the hosting organization relies on the success of the evening for its ongoing operations. On the night of the event you want to feel at ease knowing that the sound system will deliver the perfect auditory connection with your guests. When the sound is done right, you will see that the extra money spent having a professional sound designer and engineer put your system together will pay for itself many times over by improving participation with your guests, thus increasing your fundraising potential.
Best of luck on your auction!
If you have any questions, call anytime and we will be happy to help you.