Common Quiz Night Complications: Part 4

Another entry in this ongoing series, where I highlight recurrent, apparently reasonable enough,  requests from clients which we prefer not to include in our corporate quizzes and charity quizzes. So far, I’ve mentioned

  • Exaggerated Theming
  • Penalty or Bonus Points
  • Buying Clues

Now, it’s time to discuss (and eventually dismiss)…

Running Scores

Firstly, we’ll admit there isn’t a right and wrong  with this one. Plenty of good quizzes have running scores being read out, or indeed displayed on a flipchart, screen or laser display board.

You might well say “It’s like suggesting there shouldn’t be a Premier League table throughout the season. That would be rubbish”. Well, that would be impossible, for starters (unless Sepp Blatter announces even more sinister top-down proposals than he has managed to yet), but would it really be rubbish? Think how many dull games between mid-table teams with nothing to play for there used to be at the end of  the season, how much that lack of inspiration can still, even now when financial incentives have been brought in so that every position is worth fighting for to some extent, adversely affect the end of a season.

Here’s another sporting example. Occasionally, in Championship Boxing, someone’s had the bright idea of having the judges’ tallies being announced to the crowd (and hence to the fighters) at the end of the 4th and 8th round. But they found that the disheartened boxer who discovered he was miles behind on the scores would just give up, knowing that without a spectacular knockout there was no hope for him. Now, opponents of boxing might suggest that’s a good thing, that a boxer getting soundly beaten might be spared further punishment, but the point is that something introduced with the intention of providing the crowd with greater excitement actually had the opposite effect.

It’s not even necessarily the teams at the bottom who might lose interest. There’s glory in being rubbish and acting up to it. It’s those teams who might have gone into the quiz thinking they had a decent chance, but if they’re gradually dropping a few points per round, they’re falling behind. If it’s just the odd point here and there, they might well think they’re in with a chance right to the end, even though in truth, they’re about 10 behind. If they know it, disappointment and ennui might become evident, it’s only natural. No one wanted to be Spurs throughout the 90s (even, really, up to now), did they, with their endless mid-table boredom, and trust me, I was a Spurs fan, almost wishing we could have the occasional relegation scrap to liven things up.

We appreciate that people think that reading out running scores might keep things lively and exciting, foster and nourish rivalries, but, really, it can have the opposite effect. Here are a few other reasons …
1. It adds excitement to the final round, which in our quizzes has a format carefully designed to include an element of jeopardy. Teams gamble a little bit on what answers to write, and that gamble is more fun if they don’t know exactly what they’re aiming for. E.g. if the top team knows going into the last round they are leading by 6, they know they can play it very safe on  the last round – if they don’t know exactly, they have to take a bit more of a gamble, and, if they blow it spectacularly in the last round by getting lots wrong, well; that just adds to the fun.

2. Time. Our quizzes run to a well orchestrated flow. We build momentum and like to keep it going. Reading out running scores at the end of each round will slow the quiz down. This is only exacerbated if, as we’re sometimes asked, we put scores up on screen. In this case, the amount of time for scores to be added up and typed up will severely slow the quiz down. The only way to do this even remotely quickly is by inputting the scores directly into an excel sheet with a formula and then switching the signal to that laptop displaying the scores (as the quizmaster’s laptop will be in constant use and everything would come to a grinding halt if he had to stop using his laptop for a considerable time while scofes are inputted).

There would be cost of significant time and/or an extra, expensive piece of equipment.

3. The marking. We pride ourselves on the speed and quality of our marking, the way it blends seamlessly into the running order of the quiz. Running scores would make life a lot harder for the markers and prevent them doing their job as best they could.

Mistakes can be made, in both marking and adding up. In marking, it can take a fair bit of work to decipher some teams’ messy scribblings and getting all the sheets, correctly marked, to the quizmaster in time to read them out. Our markers are very good at it, but part of the process involves double-checking, throughout the quiz, that we totted each sheet, each round up right, so that we can be sure we’ve got it spot on by the end. Running scores puts pressure  on the marking to be perfect every step of the way, but any minor mistake, which we’d pick up during ongoing checks, would be highlighted by instantly giving out running scores.

What we do, always, is give out the scores for each round immediately the round is finished (though sometimes just a handful of the top scores in a larger quiz, for the sake of  time and momentum, though we’ll do our best to make sure all the team names, funny or not, are read out at some point).

Alert and sharp teams may well have a very decent idea of how they’re doing and who their rivals are – that’s fine. Likewise, sometimes individuals come up to us and ask us how they’re doing. We’re happy to give a vague idea – indeed I often announce how many points are separating teams etc. but anything more precise is to be avoided.

Really, tension and suspense is at the heart of it. It’s a similar case to when people hand in their answer sheet and say “Ooh, number 7 was a tester. What was the answer?” and we say “We’ll let you know when we read it out” and they say “But we’ve handed it it now, what’s the harm?” and the harm is that, once they know the answer, that will probably spread through the room, and so, by the time I read out the answer, which teams have been quarrelling over, rather than the roar of joy/shriek of despair which will greet it if teams are kept from knowing, there’ll be a damp pfft if everybody already knows. Might as well just hand people a sheet at the start, take it in, mark it and hand it back without a word.

Likewise, if teams know their scores all the way through, the tension will gradually be drained from the evening. Who knows, some teams might go home, start throwing paper planes, start cheating.

I said there wasn’t a right and wrong answer, but I’ve written this post as if there is! There are, I’m sure, positives to giving out running scores, but they don’t work for our format of quiz – and so we don’t do running scores: generally when people hire us they do so because they want us, with our thousands of quizzes worth of experience, to do what we know works best for our quizzes,

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