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The power of the speedily spoken word

Newsman turned auctioneer pushes bids to new heights

Faced with a troubled economy and tighter purse strings, area businesses and organizations are turning to broadcast journalist-turned-auctioneer Bill Menish to help keep the money coming in.

Founder of Bill Menish Auctioneers Inc., fast-talking Menish is an expert on the psychology of auctions. What some consider entertainment, he considers marketing. Menish offers clients more than a nimble tongue. He structures each event to maximize bidding, resulting in more money.

“Auctions are very much a part of the American marketing landscape,” Menish said.

When he takes to the stage and finally begins chanting - industry lingo for the lightening speed chatter of auctioneers - Menish has already implemented a carefully developed strategy.

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Typically, auctions are the final event at a fundraiser and, by then, Menish said potential bidders might have left. He moves the auction up to catch people when energy and enthusiasm are at their peak.

Clients also benefit from Menish’s auctioneer experience since he knows what items are most successful: once-in-a-lifetime experiences such as a round trip on a private jet for a one-hour private lesson with tennis pro Andre Agassi, which went for $115,000. His company also produces “emotional appeal” videos shown at events, which allow the sponsor to present their story with the most impact.

Convincing organizations that they need a professional auctioneer is the tough sell for Menish, but his track record speaks for itself. Auctions at the Santa Fe Christian Schools brought in $777,000, surpassing their goal of $500,000; the Burnham Institute raised a quarter of a million more than their $1 million benchmark; and the Sundt Memorial Foundation earned three times more than in the past.

“What I love is at the end (of an auction), they’re going, ‘I can’t believe what we accomplished,’” Menish said.

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A familiar face to many San Diegans - Menish was a morning anchor at NBC 7/29 - the 44-year-old Poway resident’s career took an unexpected turn when he attended the National Auctioneers Association (NAA) convention in San Diego in 2007. A frequent master of ceremonies for local charity events, Menish displayed a bent for working the crowd.

“Part of it you can train for and part of it has to come naturally,” said Menish, explaining the inherent requirements are charisma, enthusiasm, honest salesmanship and confidence. He said 18 years in front of the camera also helped, having to be eloquent and keep the audience engaged no matter what was happening in the studio.

“You wouldn’t think that television news would have prepared me for auctioneering, but it did,” he said.

A graduate of the Worldwide College of Auctioneering, Menish holds a rare certification, that of benefit auctioneer specialist through NAA. One of only 67 people worldwide that hold this designation, his services at charity and fundraising events are in high demand.

As the broadcast auctioneer for The Auction Network, Menish hosts events across the country, hawking items from the likes of Paris Hilton, Avril Lavigne and Martin Sheen.

At the recent Kathy Hilton Wishing Tree auction, Menish was momentarily struck speechless when a pink-streaked blonde Lavigne blurted out in amazement, “Where the hell did you learn to talk so fast?”

While practicing the tongue twisters he first uttered to master the sonic chatter that is the hallmark of auctioneers, Menish contemplates his rapidly expanding company: He has trained for real estate auctions, is recruiting other highly-trained auctioneers to serve clients and is leading seminars on how to set fundraising records during troubled economic times. A fitness buff with a competitive streak, Menish is also preparing to compete for the national auctioneer title.

“There are so many brand new possibilities,” Menish said.

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Upcoming Auctions

See Bill Menish in action at upcoming events for these organizations:

- Jan. 31: San Diego Jewish Academy, Carmel Valley

- Feb. 20: Cathedral Catholic High School, Carmel Valley

- March 20: Horizon Prep, Rancho Santa Fe

- March 21: Torrey Pines High School, La Jolla

- March 28: San Diego Chamber Orchestra, La Jolla

- April 3: Taste of the Triangle, UTC