Community and Lifestyle

Australia’s ‘auctioneer whisperer”

James Nason, 08/06/2011

Victorian speech pathologist Eliza Galvin works with young agents across Australia each year to improve their auctioneering technique.When old timers tell young auctioneers to “sell from the gut”, Eliza Galvin reckons they’re right on the money.

Mrs Galvin is a professional speech pathologist, but ‘auctioneer-whisperer’ might be a more apt description for the work she does for the Australian Livestock and Property Agents Association across Australia each year.

For the past 13 years the Victorian voice coach has been a regular instructor at the annual auctioneering schools conducted by ALPA for young agents in each Australian state.

While her auctioneering courses run for two days, it usually takes just a few seconds of watching an auctioneer in action for her to pinpoint exactly what is needed to fine tune their technique.

And while there are many things she can do to help young auctioneers to refine their craft, most of what they are told comes down to breathing, she says.

“A lot of agents have heard in the past, 'sell from your gut', there is a lot of truth to that statement,” she said.

Behind the advice is what speech pathologists technically refer to as “thoracoabdominal breathing”.

It involves relaxing the larynx and using abdominal muscles in combination with space in the lower lungs and chest to power air out and project the voice forward.

“The idea is to use no extra effort, but to get their voice stronger, deeper and louder,” Mrs Galvin said.

“As a presenter at the school I listen and stop them as they’re selling and tweak a few little things, and you can hear the improvement instantly, you can hear it in the richness of their voice.

“And you can see that they’re more relaxed. They need to be relaxed to be able to get their voice to work.”

Improving posture is also an important element of her work. She instructs agents to stand taller and to stretch their shoulders apart, which helps them to present with a crisper quality of voice.

“It comes back to that no extra effort, just by standing taller and projecting forward and using their whole lung space, they are able to project their voice so much better."

Mrs Galvin instructs at ALPA auctioneering schools in Tasmania, Victoria, South Australia, NSW and Queensland each year.  Last week she was working with agents at Shepparton in Victoria, and for the past two days she has been at Gracemere near Rockhampton in Queensland putting 20 young auctioneers through their paces at the Queensland Young Auctioneering State Final selection school.

She said there were clear differences in the way auctioneers operated in northern and southern Australia.

Northern Australia is supposed to be more laid back, but obviously not when it comes to auctions.

“They sell a lot faster in Queensland than they do in Victoria,” Mrs Galvin said. 

"The further south you go, auctioneers are a lot slower with the initial reaction you get, there are different words they use, different terminologies to fill in their patter, and different ways of taking bids. In Queensland they don’t use the half bid, whereas in Victoria they still count using the half."

For young agents in northern markets, the challenge to keep up with the faster paced auctions sometimes led to the development of bad habits.

If they try to sell too fast too soon, their clarity drops, which is a problem in a trade where it is absolutely vital for people to understand what they are saying.

“Speed is probably the biggest thing, and a long with that goes clarity.

“When they try to speak too fast they speak through closed teeth and a closed jaw.

“Just by opening their mouth and opening their jaw they can produce so much more volume without any extra effort”.

Mrs Galvin said it was extremely rewarding to travel around the country each year and to see agents that she had worked with as beginners now presenting at auctioneering schools to the new generation of students.

“I love working with the young agents,” she said. “I always said that if I was going to pick an industry that my daughter should marry into, it would be a young agent, because they are all such mature people.

“They have had so many life experiences at such an early age, and they are just a pleasure to work with.”

  • ALPA will today announce the finalists for Queensland’s Young Auctioneering Competition to be held at the Ekka in August. Keep an eye on Beef Central this afternoon for the details.


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