10 Tips to Use PowerPoint in Your Live Auction

If you’ve ever hosted a charity auction in the past, you know how important it is to create a lavish shopping experience for your donors. Bright visuals and sleek displays are essential, and nowhere is this more true than the fundraising highlight of the night: the live auction.

Why not use PowerPoint slides to put every item’s “best foot forward”?

Read on for 10 ways PowerPoint slides fetch higher bids in the live auction. Then save time and get inspiration with our brand-new resource: FREE PowerPoint slide templates!

Better Displays, Higher Bids

Imagine you’d never seen a dog before.

We can talk about dogs. I could tell you how members of the genus Canis are thought to be descended from wolves, and how pugs are the largest “toy” breed of the American Kennel Club. You might read about curly tails and clownish behavior and think, ‘Oh, dogs sound cool.’ But actually seeing a pug dog – how it looks, behaves and interacts with the world – just melts my heart in a way words can’t.

Pictures are worth a thousand pugs.

In a live auction, time is extremely limited. You’ve got to make use of every second.

Today we’ll look at how the right visuals are worth not only a thousand words – they can raise bids by thousands of dollars.

1) Include visuals for every auction item.

Take one of Winspire’s top-selling packages, Napa Valley Backroads & Railways. It comes with a 3-night stay at the Meritage Resort and Spa; 6 hours of chaffeured luxury sedan service; a 3-hour gourmet dinner for 2 on the Napa Valley Wine Train and more.

Here’s what you’d get if you were to just put out the general Word description, with all the details and no pictures…

Auction item with no pics - not very enticing

Now here’s the PDF with pictures, that can be blown up to poster size.

Auction package with pics - much better

Which one more effectively communicates what donors will receive if they win this package?

The more a display can dazzle your donors, the higher the perceived value of a package goes.

Now let’s take the visuals to the next level. Here’s what a PowerPoint of this package might look like…

Sample Live Auction Slide

If you use a Winspire trip in your auction, you’ll automatically receive beautiful hi-res images to use in any promotional materials you’d like, including PowerPoint slides (as well as emails, social media posts, the auction catalog and more).

Best of all: This slide and loads more ideas are now available to download for free! Just click below to request the free templates.


2) Coordinate with the auctioneer.

“The theater of the mind words great for radio, and it works great for webinars,” notes benefit auctioneer and webinar guest Scott Robertson. “But at a live auction, people ‘hear’ so much better when they see what goes along with it.”

It can be tough to listen to just audio for half an hour to an hour. When that auctioneer is up there speaking on a package, trying to paint that picture with words, you’re going to go miles further if you have actual pictures going along in a presentation.

PowerPoint Slide in Live Auction

Your goal: Get your audience to visualize themselves on the trip, or using that item. The best way to do so is create an experience that engages more than one sense (i.e. hearing and seeing).

Including pictures and slides helps attendees stay engaged the whole time and follow along with what the auctioneer is doing on stage.

3) Limit text to the highlights.

Slides are merely a visual aid, so you don’t want to bog down the impact with too much text. You might include one slide of the highlights in bullet points, or allocate one point per slide.

Let’s go back to wine country—at this event, the Williams Selyem Perfect Pinot Exclusive Experience was on the auction block.

PowerPoint Slide in Live Auction

The auctioneer is doing the heavy lifting, talking up the private tour, tasting and gourmet picnic lunch at a Healdsburg winery not open to the public; a luxurious stay at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn; a VIP 6-course dinner at Valette Restaurant and more.

The speech goes 80 percent of the way to getting people very invested in that package; the visuals go the extra 20 percent.

So don’t fall into the trap of trying to do too much with your PowerPoint. Too much text will bog down the impact of the great pictures. Focus on short captions with striking images for best results.

4) Show images at a decent clip.

Slow turtle caption.jpg

There’s no need to race through the presentation, but you’ll want the pictures going at a good speed.

“I’m not a big fan of having elements of the PowerPoint slowly fade in,” Robertson says. “It looks great when you’re just watching the PowerPoint, but when you’re at the live auction, you want people paying attention to the auctioneer.”

With too many fancy transitions, sometimes guests get caught up watching the show.

You cannot have too many pictures,” adds Ian Lauth, Creative Director at Winspire. “Try aiming for at least five different slides per item. That way people are seeing something different, and the full value of the package is being communicated.”

You can have one slide going for the full three minutes, with the next picture coming in every few seconds. This brings us to our next tip…

5) Set up auto-scrolling slides when possible.

“What’s really important when you’re building your slides, is to be able to hit the key once on a single package, and have the transition and new pictures coming up all on their own while the auctioneer is talking,” Lauth says.

You don’t want someone to have to keep pecking at the keyboard every few seconds. They may very well forget where they’re supposed to be.

Along with your download of free PowerPoint templates, we’ve included a list of handy YouTube tutorials on this subject. In just a few minutes you can learn how to hit the mouse key once so the images transition on their own with customized delays.


6) Use video clips.


Video clips are very effective at creating a sensory experience for the audience. The audience will love seeing the camera pan out to show the vast expanse of a safari, ocean waves on a cruise, miles of vineyards and more.

As part of the slide show, a good rule of thumb is to omit the sound. However, this does depend upon the item.

Let’s say you’re offering thrill seekers the chance to take a Ferrari, Lamborghini or Porsche for a spin on a real racetrack, with the Exotic Supercar Driving Experience.

“I would put “Highway to the Danger Zone” on, and include a video to show what the winning bidder gets to do,” Robertson says. “You wouldn’t want to do this for all the items, but for something that needs the animation, like a bucket-list driving experience, it’s certainly worth the 30 seconds.”

A parked car looks like a parked car, but seeing a dream car whip around the track at SPEEDVEGAS is something else entirely.

Supercar Slide.png

7) Test the PowerPoint – and have A/V support on hand.

Think of all the production that goes into hosting a big event: the time that goes into the centerpieces, the lights, the drapes and more. After months of work, when people are finally sitting down at their tables and you’re at the pinnacle of the event – you have this huge screen to which everyone is paying attention.

Screens at event.png

“Talk about time versus worth,” says Lauth. “Putting a small amount of time into your PowerPoint, and making sure that the right slides are up when people are there, is going to go so far in terms of improving the amount of bids you’re going to get.”

So it’s absolutely worth investing a little bit of time into making sure that the PowerPoint looks great, and also works the way you want it to.

Rehearse the slides with both your auctioneer and any A/V assistant or team that will be helping out at the event. You don’t want the wrong slides showing on the screen during the live auction. It’s a needless distraction that will have your team scrambling to correct.

8) Skip the retail values.

Silent-Auction-Display-Templates-LOGO-3.pngA question that often comes up: Should we put the retail value on the slides?

“I say no, don’t put the retail value on the slides: I believe doing so just puts a cap on bidding,” Robertson emphasizes. “We want to sell things for more than retail, ideally. If you tell people how much someone is supposed to spend, they’re a little embarrassed if they overspend.

“So let guests perceive the value, and bid from there.”

Whether you’re putting together silent auction displays, an auction catalog or PowerPoint slides, we recommend omitting any sort of suggested retail value, and letting bids go as high as possible.


9) Prepare a general slideshow to put on in the background.

You can have the PowerPoint going when the live auction isn’t on. Before guests sit down, you can show sponsors, images from past events, current programs and services, previews of auction items and more.

It’s a simple, subtle way to remind people why they’re there, and what their purchases are funding.

You can set up autoscrolling by setting your PowerPoint on Kiosk mode. Click here for the easy how-to.

10) Highlight event sponsors.

Another great idea is to put sponsors in both your background slideshow and the live auction, so they’re getting visual recognition and not only thanked over the microphone. You might include general sponsors in the background slides, then highlight donors who have underwritten your big-ticket auction items during the live auction.

“When the CEO happens to be in the room, they love to see their company recognized as many ways as possible,” Robertson says. “Give them what they want.”

11) Download free PowerPoint Templates.

So there you have it: 10 tips to get the highest bids possible from every live auction item using PowerPoint slides.

Put these tips to practice with our handy PowerPoint Templates, a free download that offers several different possible layouts, plus a list of resources to help you customize and animate your own slideshow.

Click here to get the templates, then let us know what you think in the comments below!