Excitement and energy at an auction not only comes from an Auctioneer’s fast-paced bid calling and management of a crowd, but also from the rapid movement, subtle communications and bidder encouragement that comes from professional ringmen.
Professional ringmen help bring in more money at auction, say National Auctioneers Association members.
“Having professional ringmen in a benefit auction will pay for themselves tenfold,” says Jeff Maynard, BAS, President and Chief Executive of Maynard & Associates, Tempe, Ariz.
Angie Meier, of Champion Auctioneers Inc., Ennis, Texas, agrees a professional ringman can significantly increase auction sales.
Being a professional ringman, or bidder assistant, requires skills that are crafted through years of experience with auctions, NAA members say.
“Ringmen need to understand exactly where the bid is, where the bid needs to go, what the audience is, who has the money in the room and be able to know an individual bidder — whether they will be bidding again or not,” says Letitia Frye, CAI, BAS, PRI, of Letitia Fry Auctions, Scottsdale, Ariz.
Basic skills that set the most talented ringmen apart from the rest are “posture, professionalism and a clear diction of voice,” she says.
At auction, ringmen might use different terms to confirm bids. Every Auctioneer/ringman team has its own style, molded by the individuals’ personalities.
“I have found that the word ‘yes’ is much more powerful for benefit auctions than the different ‘yep’ or ‘yea’ chants,” says Kathy Kingston, CAI, BAS, of Kingston Auction Co., Hampton, N.H.
The role of the professional ringman at auctions has been gradually changing.
Not only must a ringman use skills acquired through auction experience, he or she must learn a set of skills necessary to read people through body language, members say.
“The ringmen help develop that synergy and together we can really bring that room to life,” Maynard says, referring to the relationship he has with ringmen while working as an Auctioneer.
Learning about a person based on his or her facial expression can be challenging.
“There is a lot more of a psychology and a strategy involved,” Frye says.
Frye says most movements by a ringman have meaning known only by the Auctioneer and other bidder assistants. These actions can be as subtle as adjusting a necktie or brushing hair.
“Ringmen are watching the movement in the room and giving a vocal or a visual response to the Auctioneer,” Frye says. “There is a constant communication. The Auctioneer is never alone in the room.”
Ringmen and Auctioneers work together to control the room, she says.
“Your team must really understand you. It is like having a great dance partner. When I move left, they move right,” Frye says.
Ringmen have different ways of communicating with Auctioneers. Each Auctioneer and ringman crafts his or her own form of communication with one another, Meier says.
“When you work with an Auctioneer so much, you can have a conversation with them through their chant,” says Meier, an instructor for the Texas Auction Academy.
Ringmen might have personal influence on bidders. They can touch bidders on their shoulders and encourage them to bid again.
Maynard adds, though, that the winning bidder is not the only person of importance. Those who they bid against are just as important, as they are the ones who often drive prices higher.
A handshake and a smile when the bidding ends shows losing bidders they are appreciated, Maynard says.
The ringman plays an important role in benefit auctions, he says. The personal contact is important because benefit auction bidders might be less familiar with auctions than bidders who attend other asset-specific sales.
“They infuse some excitement into the event. Ringmen are extremely beneficial to the Auctioneer, the nonprofit and the audience,” Maynard says.
There might be a good opportunity for younger generations to get into the auction industry and learn its inner workings through being ringmen.
The profession provides Auctioneers a chance to mentor younger generations in order to allow them to have an opportunity to make a good living in an industry they should be proud of, Frye says.
“It is a very honorable profession and an aspect that often goes overlooked. What ringmen truly do add to the bottom line is unbelievable,” Frye says.