Things of Value

In a presentation, we may have a hard time determining what ideas are important and which ones are not. We certainly have clues by the amount of attention audience members give us and noticing that they are writing down an idea we have just delivered.

However, there is one special presentation where the speaker knows exactly what the audience values, and that is the auction!  I grew up in an auctioneer family and have done my share of charity auctions. The content of your presentation is the articles to be sold and you can estimate how much each item is worth, but you never know for sure until you start the bidding.

For example, years ago at a charity auction I sold an eight-inch piece of metal from the car Dale Earnhardt drove in the 2000 Daytona 500 race, a year before he crashed and died in the Daytona 500. A true fan paid $600 for that piece of metal!

There are certain things a good auctioneer will do to insure a high bid on an article put on the auction block to be sold. These same rules can help the speaker insure maximum value of his or her ideas, such as to learn about the item(s) to be sold. My uncle used to go to catalogues and farm implement stores to learn the value of farm equipment he would sell at his next auction. He called antique dealers to inquire about certain pieces to determine where he would start the bidding on an antique plate or an English armoire. The good auctioneer shows enthusiasm about special items to help the audience develop an emotional connection to the item to be sold.

Uncle Mark might say before selling a car at an estate auction, “This car was driven for 10 years by Mrs. Smith. As many of you know, she was a careful driver, always kept this Chevy Impala in her garage, and made sure service was up to date. This is not your typical ten-year-old car you might see on a used car lot. With that in mind, what am I bid?”

My uncle was highly respected in the community and people loved coming to his auctions. They were entertaining and upbeat besides being well-organized and efficiently conducted. He gave back to the community in many ways, such as volunteering his time to sell prize-winning cattle at the annual 4-H Fair.

With a valuable clock or antique bowl, he might spend extra time in seeking to raise the bid. He knew when to stress the value of an artifact and also knew when to move on quickly in selling a nondescript desk or chair.

Find the best auctioneer in your community and attend one of his or her auctions. The experience will improve your speaking skills. The speaker needs some of the same skills as the auctioneer:

  • interacting with the audience
  • knowing the concerns of the audience
  • showing excitement for the topic
  • pacing—knowing when to speed up or slow down
  • having fun.

Connect with your local auctioneer and you too can increase the value of your next presentation.

You can also invite me to sell your group on the value of communication skills with my “High Bid” after-dinner or keynote speech. You can make money for your favorite charity during the speech when I sell a lovely hand-painted hummingbird welcome sign for your home which I donate. Click to see a short video of me as auctioneer at a charity auction.

Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor Emeritus of Speech Communication, College of Informatics, Northern Kentucky University, near Cincinnati. He presents keynotes and seminars to corporations and associations whose people want to speak and listen effectively. See additional articles and resources at To book Steve, call 800-727-6520 or reply to this email.

Steve Boyd
Steve Boyd
Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor Emeritus of Speech Communication, College of Informatics, Northern Kentucky University, near Cincinnati. Steve won the Toastmasters International Speech Contest in 1970 and was chosen Outstanding Professor of the Year at NKU in 1984, among other awards and honors. Since retiring, he volunteers with nonprofits, spends time with family, travels, preaches occasionally, and enjoys reading and writing. Contact Steve at (859) 866-5693 or at

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