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Auctioneers should always use a microphone when bid calling. In 1876, Emile Berliner invented the first advanced microphone and since then there have been tremendous improvements in microphone/speaker systems.
Today, with wireless technology, the auctioneer can wear a lightweight headset which allows for hands-free operation, (or use a cordless handheld microphone) and transmit his voice to large crowds, with one or multiple speakers stationed 100’s of feet away.
Basically, a wireless system has a transmitter which is housed in either a belt-clip style case or a plug style case (depending upon if using the headset or handheld system). Then, a speaker is equipped with a receiver that receives the same frequency that the transmitter transmits.
Systems manufactured specifically for auctioneers, and similar uses, cost anywhere from $500 for entry-level systems, to upwards of $5,000 for high end multi-feature systems. Wireless systems are usually either a horn-type system or driver-type speaker system.
Driver-type speakers allow for tone and base control, and a more diverse sound, but are typically heavy and larger in size, and require more power. Horn-type speakers have less sound diversity, but are typically capable of higher volumes, are much lighter than driver-type speakers, and require less power.
No matter the type of system being used, one common misconception about such systems at an auction is where the system is to be positioned. Proper positioning of the speaker is actually behind the crowd, facing the auctioneer (not behind the auctioneer, nor to the auctioneer’s side, facing the crowd), and up on a tripod or other stationary device, at minimum 7-8 feet from the floor.
Volume is important. Many auctioneers can sell at a low volume and hear themselves quite well. However, it is important that bidders from some significant distances can hear the auctioneer as well, so proper volume must be maintained.
A good example of microphone usage is at the Barrett-Jackson car auction. Below is one of Tony Stewart’s cars being sold by Barrett-Jackson, with Spanky Assiter as the auctioneer:
We’ll discuss in a future post about voice care, but one material issue with voice disorders is stress, caused by talking too loudly for an extended period of time. By using a microphone system, auctioneers can help keep their voices healthy while projecting their sound over a wide area for hours at a time.
Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, CAI, AARE has been an auctioneer and certified appraiser for over 30 years. His company’s auctions are located at: Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, Keller Williams Auctions and Goodwill Columbus Car Auction. His Facebook page is: www.facebook.com/mbauctioneer. He is Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School.