VoiceBox: How auctioneers turn selling into an art form, and a sport

· Mar. 11, 2014, 6:00 am
Photo: Auctioneer Steve Linnebur(Photo: Courtesy of Steve Linnebur)
Auctioneer Steve Linnebur
In “Auctioneering,” we meet Colorado Auctioneers Hall of Famer Steve Linnebur and Al Carlson, a long-time auction attendee from Golden, Colorado. We also meet Justin Ochs, an auctioneer from Tennessee.
Live auctions are an ancient art. The form has evolved into a kind of sport, where spectators often show up with a sandwich and a lawn chair just to listen to skilled practitioners using their voices to sell all kinds of goods.
Photo: Auctioneer Justin Ochs(Photo: Courtesy of Justin Ochs)
Auctioneer Justin Ochs

Want to chant like an auctioneer?

To go all the way, you might just have to go back to school. But here are some exercises to loosen your lips.
  1. Warm up. In order to keep their tongues limber for the fast-talking performances, auctioneers practice with a variety of tongue twisters. In this example from Slate.com, Tim Kruse of the Reppert Auction School practices "a big black bug bit a big black bear."
  2. Speed up. Justin Ochs perfected his art by practicing with the filler words "get to bid" and "get to buy." Ochs repeated the phrases faster and faster until he was able to use them seamlessly between calling out numbers to bidders. To get a sense of what an auctioneer does all day, start out by saying the filler words at a typical speaking pace, and gradually speed up.

Alyssa Kapnik is an independent radio producer and reporter, as well as a photojournalist and portrait photographer.

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