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Professional Ringmen's Institute owner Brian Rigby, front, and auctioneer Neal Davis demonstrate the finer points of working an auction during a May course in Springfield. The class, which included instruction at the Manheim Missouri auto auction on West Sunshine Street, drew students from London and Taiwan.
Professional Ringmen's Institute owner Brian Rigby, front, and auctioneer Neal Davis demonstrate the finer points of working an auction during a May course in Springfield. The class, which included instruction at the Manheim Missouri auto auction on West Sunshine Street, drew students from London and Taiwan.

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They’re behind-the-scenes workers, but auctioneers will tell you they’re key to any auction’s success.

They work the crowd, coaxing bids from potential buyers, seemingly knowing when bidders intend to bid before they raise their paddles.

This science behind the auction ring man is complex, and that’s why Brian Rigby started his Rogersville-based Professional Ringmen’s Institute.

After working as a ring man and auctioneer for the Amarillo, Texas-based National Quarter Horse Association 1979–81 and as a full-time auctioneer for 15 years, Rigby believed the number of quality ring men was too low. He took it upon himself to do something about it.

“I really began to notice a serious void over the years – that void being a lack of professional ring men,” Rigby says. “In 1996, I got together with a group of peers in Columbia and held our first class there. We still use graduates of that first class in teaching today.”

He usually conducts about three multiday courses a year in Springfield – in February, May and November – and others nationwide by invitation. Each class has up to 25 participants, says Rigby, who has help from eight instructors teaching how to best rope in bids during real estate, livestock and auto auctions.

Heard around the world
A recent class in Springfield attracted students from as far away as London and Taiwan.

“I had the opportunity to work with Brian Rigby as a ring person at a multimillion-dollar property sale in Texas,” says Letitia Frye, an auctioneer for eight years in Phoenix and a student of the May 27–29 course held at Ramada Oasis Convention Center. “I learned more working in one afternoon with that gentleman than I had in seven years.”

At the sale, Frye worked with Rigby-trained ring men and noticed how they helped the overall quality of the sale, spotting bidders and knowing the items potential buyers were eyeing.

Frye researched Professional Ringmen’s Institute and enrolled in Rigby’s class. The opportunity, she says, to develop her auctioneer’s chant under Neal Davis at Rigby’s school “is worth all the gold there is.” Davis is an Arkansas-based auctioneer who teaches with Rigby.

Daphne Nahon, of London, joined Frye at Rigby’s recent $950 three-day seminar. Nahon says she’ll take her new knowledge back to Allsop, the 104-year-old real estate auction house in London where she works.

“Auctioneering tends to go at a much slower pace in the (United Kingdom),” Nahon observes.

Training is WORK
Rigby says ring men training begins with fundamentals, which include communication with voice, hands and feet. Possibly most important, though, is rapport with the auctioneer.

“Books have been written on the power of the word ‘yes,’ which is a very powerful, positive word,” Rigby says. “You might hear some so-called ring men turning bids in with a ‘yep,’ or a ‘yo,’ which is totally inappropriate. You can’t dignify the word ‘yep’ or ‘yo,’ but you can dignify the word yes. If it’s not a ‘yes’ we know they’re just having fun and making some noise, which is important, too.”

Also important is how ring men work the crowd before the bid-calling process, Rigby says, pointing to networking with buyers and learning their interests.

Rigby calls his ring men’s model: welcome, objective, rapport and knowledge – or WORK.

“It’s more than just spotting a bid,” he says. “I can make a bid spotter out of you in about 10 seconds. Can I make a ring man out of you in 10 seconds? Absolutely not.”[[In-content Ad]]

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