Skip to content

How to Host a Live Online Auction Smoothly & Earn Some Extra Bucks

Austin Canary

Nov 19, 2020

How to Host a Live Online Auction

RevBlogCaptionsHow to Host a Live Online Auction Smoothly & Earn Some Extra Bucks

Auctions are a great way to raise money while engaging with both sponsors and the local community alike. However, social distancing means that we will have to change how we fundraise. Fortunately, not only is it easy to convert a traditional auction to an online one, but also just as fun. Fostering the spirit of community is now more important than ever so shifting your event online is a great idea.

This guide will run you through how to host an unforgettable online auction.

Preparation for Online Auctions

The key to any successful auction is good preparation. With so many different components, it can be incredibly stressful to prepare for an auction. However, careful planning and attention to detail will help you meet your fundraising goals and create an enjoyable night.

Planning the event format 

Understandably, you may be unsure how to plan your auction. You can largely keep to the format of a traditional one. Start with a short video message and encourage bidders throughout via the live chat. The most important thing is to create a clear timeline for the night.

Defining the rules

Some of your attendees may never have been at an online auction before. Therefore, it is really important that you clearly communicate all rules and logistics to potential bidders. Not only will this alleviate any potential anxiety, but it will also ensure that the event runs smoothly.

Clearly set out how winners will be informed and how they are expected to pay for and collect their items. Shipping logistics and the bidding process should also be shared with attendees prior to the auction commencing.

Securing sponsorships

For many non-profits, sponsorships represent a significant source of income. With many traditional auctions, businesses cover the costs of organizing the event in exchange for good affiliations and publicity. Just because your auction is being held online, doesn’t mean this has to change. Offer a place for your sponsors to shine. Attach hyperlinked logos to all emails and give dedicated recognition during the event. 

Spreading the word 

With the amount of time that people spend online, it is hard to ignore the power of social media. Using platforms such as Twitter and Instagram for promotion is integral to your auction’s visibility. Not only do they allow you to appeal to a wider audience, but they also allow you to spread your message.

Here are some ways to make the most out of popular social media platforms:

  • Twitter is an ideal platform for promoting your auction due to its heavy emphasis on updates and live news. If you utilize the correct methods, you can broadcast your event to many people and draw valuable attendees. Use event hashtags to build up excitement before and during the auction. The perfect hashtag should be simple but memorable. Most importantly, get the whole team involved. Encourage staff, vendors and speakers to include the hashtag in their tweets before and during the auction. Every little helps when it comes to creating trending hashtags.
  • Instagram is becoming an increasingly important tool for marketing as it grows in popularity. Hashtags are your best friend on this platform as well. Avoid hashtags that are overly populated or mundane. Instagram Stories are also great for building anticipation. 
  • Facebook is one of the largest social media platforms today. This large user base makes it the perfect place to attract potential attendees. Optimizing your Facebook Event page is crucial. When your page is shared, its cover photo is the first thing to appear. Therefore, it is important to choose a photo that is eye catching. Additionally, your event name should be short and memorable. A large percentage of Facebook’s users are mobile based. Long names will look clunky on smaller screens. Once you have crafted the perfect page, don’t hesitate to share it in relevant groups.

Ultimately, it is important to adopt a multifaceted approach to promoting your auction. Using a mixture of all these platforms alongside email will give you the biggest reach and ensure a great turnout.

Set Up for Online Auctions

Procuring the right tech is vital for achieving a successful auction.


If your audience can’t hear you loud and clear, they are unlikely to remain focused. This can have a negative impact on bidding and thus the financial success of the night. Accordingly, it is important to secure a microphone of good quality. A simple USB microphone that connects to your laptop can provide great sound quality without a hefty price. If you plan to host the live auction in a place with lots of ambient noise, look into a microphone with noise-cancelling features.


For a more polished event, consider getting an external camera. Your attendees will definitely appreciate the improved graphics. However, a webcam should do the job just fine.

Internet connection

In order to prevent any snags during the auction, you should use a dedicated internet connection. Connecting, via an ethernet cable, to a network that is not in use will decrease the likelihood of any derailing failures. Before you start live streaming, check your internet speed.

Handling financial transactions

After the auction’s conclusion, the excitement doesn’t end just yet. You must collect payments and issue invoices and shipping quotes. Luckily, this isn’t as stressful as it sounds. Platforms such as Auction Marketer can do all the hard work for you.

Hosting the Online Auction

Now that you’ve prepared and set up your equipment, it’s time to host the auction.

Finding a platform

Currently there are two main types of solutions for hosting an online auction. You can choose live streaming platforms such as YouTube Live and Facebook Live. Alternatively, you can opt to use conferencing software such as Zoom and GoToMeeting.

Here is an exploration of each potential solution:

  • YouTube Live is quite intuitive to use due to its familiarity. As a result, attendees will be able to participate fully in the auction rather than struggling with the platform. However, the lack of presentation features can dramatically limit the scope of your virtual auction. Furthermore, the platform does experience some lag which is not ideal for the energetic nature of a bidding match. 
  • Facebook Live will also be familiar to your guests. Unfortunately, Facebook Live often faces technical issues such blurriness and lagging.
  • GoToMeetings is a conferencing software unlike the above two options. Consequently, it is much more reliable and boasts integrations that can make hosting the auction easier.  It also provides dedicated tech support and advanced privacy settings. All of this comes at quite a price though.

A huge problem with all of these solutions is their lack of accessibility. Adding captions in real time is virtually impossible. This means that those who are deaf or hard of hearing are effectively barred from attending. Auctions carry a huge community aspect and can forge long lasting bonds between community members. Denying deaf and hard of hearing members the opportunity to fully participate defeats the spirit of the fundraiser. It also prevents your auction from being its most financially successful.

Zoom is a conferencing software that allows live captioning. It also has very sophisticated tools for presenting that open a whole world of possibilities. In addition to that, Zoom supports large audiences. Although it can be difficult to navigate at first, the learning curve is not steep.

To  go live on Zoom:

Log in to your account and select My Webinars from the Personal section of the portal. Next, click on the Schedule My Webinar button. This will take you to the details page. In the details page, enter the name of the presenter, the subject matter and other necessary descriptions. Following that, fill in the auction’s date and time. In the Invite Attendees section, specify your preferred registration method. Enable Zoom’s Q&A function if so required. Then choose a webinar option before saving the webinar. 

To add live captions:

Go to and select our Live Captions for Zoom option. Then, click on the Start Free Trial button. This will prompt you to log into your Rev account. Once you have logged in, you will be prompted to authorize Rev. Select Authorize In Zoom. To finish the authorization, log into your Zoom account. After you have authorized Rev, click on Start Your Free Trial. Next, complete the checkout process. When you’ve checked out, add the emails of the Zoom host users. Open Zoom and enter Account Settings. Enable Closed captioning. Then go to Webinar Settings and enable Custom Live Streaming Service

Start the webinar. Select …More then choose Live on Custom Live Streaming Service. When the live captions are available, LIVE on Custom Live Streaming Service will appear in the upper left corner.

Keep the night entertaining

Due to the lack of in-person engagement, there are few incentives for attendees to stay focused. Creating a lively atmosphere will motivate your attendees to get bidding.

Gamification is a great strategy to utilize. Display a leadership board that shows the event’s top bidders. Offering prizes to those that bid the most will introduce an element of competition that will fire up the crowd. Alternatively, set up a fundraising thermometer that shows the total funds raised. As the amount rises, so will everyone’s spirits.

Throughout the event, keep participants notified. Notifications are a great way to maintain your attendees’ interest. Whenever a guest has been outbid, alert them. This will create a sense of urgency that will stimulate them to bid higher. Similarly, announcing deadlines or hot items can direct the participants’ attention and drive bidding.

Music is another great way to brighten the mood. Use it to fill awkward silences and smooth out transitions. Selecting the perfect piece, will warm up the attendees and ensure they leave with great memories.

Hosting Live Online Auctions

Hosting a virtual auction is a highly rewarding experience but it can also be incredibly stressful. Lighten your load by selecting the best platforms. With Zoom, it is possible to create a great webinar that is also accessible to a wider audience. Rev provides live captions for Zoom that are of a high standard for a low price.

Affordable, fast transcription. 100% Guaranteed.