Some people talk as if their life depended on it. Scott Robertson talks so that others may have a better life.
Robertson has what some might consider an unusual career. He’s a benefit auctioneer – the “Ringleader of Fun” – the “Emcee of Entertainment”, the person who keeps the audience engaged for several hours all while keeping his eyes-on-the-prize, maximizing the revenue for the charity that hired him to be their voice.
The job of an auctioneer has been around for centuries. However, being a professional benefit auctioneer is a fairly new concept. But it’s a career choice that appears to be growing in popularity as charities attempt to find new and innovative ways to raise the money they need – to assist the families in need – especially in these difficult economic times.
“Potential new clients often think ‘an auctioneer is an auctioneer.’ But, when they hire a traditional auctioneer and their event fails to raise excitement and falls far short of its financial goals, they are quick to understand the advantages of hiring a professional benefit auctioneer. “
Robertson caught the auctioneering bug at an early age in his hometown of Bethel, Kentucky, a rural farming community with the staggering population of 183. As the son of a farmer and an antique storeowner, he often found himself by his parent’s side attending farm or antique auctions, which in many ways turned into social events with the ladies from the local church selling home baked food items.
“To be honest, as a kid I originally loved going to auctions because it was a day away from the farm and the chores.” said Robertson. “But, it wasn’t long before I found a mentor and began to appreciate the concept of the auction and the power of the auctioneer.”
That mentor was Howard Staton, a Bethel-area resident who conducted the majority of the auctions in the central Kentucky county. Robertson recalls Staton as an honest, wise and personable man who treated him as if he were any other bidder.
“I may have been just a boy, but Mr. Staton never ignored me when I would bid on an item using money I earned from a paper route,” said Robertson. “He’d look me straight in the eye and accepted my bid as if I were an adult.”
One of the first items Robertson bid on and won, when he was just seven years old, was a Carrom Board, a toy that was extremely popular in the 60s and 70s.
“We had a Carrom Board, but with two older brothers I didn’t get a chance to play with it much so I decided a second Carrom board was just what the household needed,” stated Robertson. “I had to wait most of the day and when it finally came up for auction I had the winning bid – 25 cents. I think the other bidders took pity on me and let me have it.”
There were two things Robertson left the auction site with as the family vehicle headed back home – his Carrom Board – and a love for the auctioneer’s vocal talent and showmanship.
“Mr. Staton’s chant was flawless – simply mesmerizing. I became hooked,” said Robertson.
It took 10 years after leaving Bethel for Robertson to pursue his dream. In the mid-90s he attended an auctioneering school in Orlando, Florida and upon graduation immediately began to incorporate his outgoing personality into his new career.
In the past 17 years, Robertson has conducted over 500 benefit auctions raising millions of dollars for a variety of charities every year. The committee chairman and benefit organizers he’s had the privilege to work alongside applaud his efforts.
“Scott brings energy, excitement and experience to the stage of fundraising,” said Joanne Fleming, Director of Development and Special Projects for The Christ School in Orlando, Florida. “Scott does his homework, knows his audience and the auction items and engages the audience to share their revenues. Thanks to his work The Christ School has raised over 0,000 to further our K through 8 school.”
“Taking on our event and its unusual auction items took a special breed of auctioneer,” said Jim Moreland, the Chairman of the Ducks Unlimited Auction. “Scott worked the audience of nearly 400 and generated the most money our committee has raised in more than 20 years, In short – it was a great success.”
Steve Machiz, the Chairman of the Southwest Florida Wine and Food Festival, had similar sentiments.
“Many auctioneers have experience, but few have the whole package,” said Machiz. “Scott is an astute student of his crowd and has the unique ability to build momentum which generates enhanced levels of giving.”
Robertson’s colleagues have also honored his efforts. Not only is he a competitor in the International Auction Bid Calling Championship, he’s a former Florida Auction Bid Calling Champion.
“I truly love what I do,” said Robertson. “How many other jobs can you name where you are helping those not-for-profit organizations and schools that need help – while at the same time standing next to stars like Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin and Sharon Stone – to name just a few.”
Robertson believes charisma, salesmanship and having the ability to analyze an audience are three of the most important qualities a benefit auctioneer needs.
“Experienced fundraising auctioneers know when to be entertaining – but they also need to know when to be serious and how to read the room to generate the most possible revenue,” stated Robertson. “Yes, making the audience laugh or tear-up at the appropriate times is part of the job. But you can never loose sight of the fact you are there to generate bids. That’s where charisma, salesmanship and audience analysis come into play – whether there is 30 people in the room or a thousand.”
The crowd size doesn’t affect Robertson’s performance.
“When it comes to the size of the live audience – the more the merrier,” he said. “I have an instinctive understanding for the mood in the room, as well as the different personalities. That allows me to adjust my techniques to make sure everyone has a great time. The large size of the crowd doesn’t scare me – it inspires me.”
Robertson is quick to add, fun is still the name of the game.
“If an event is not fun – and time seems to drag on – profits at the benefit drop and ticket sales for next year’s event will suffer,” he said. “A professional benefit auctioneer can prevent that from occurring – and that’s crucial to the charity’s bottom line.”
For more information on Scott Robertson of Scott Robertson Auctioneers, call (239) 246-2139 or visit his Web site “The Voice of Experience” at www.thevoe.com.