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The Hidden Rules

When people come up to me at the end of a quiz I’ve run in order to pay it a kind compliment,  it doesn’t usually extend that much further than “Great quiz”, “That was really fun”, “Clever quiz questions”, “That was tough but we really enjoyed it”, “I’m not normally one for quiz nights but I loved it”, etc …

They don’t tend to say things like “I particularly enjoyed the way you only included two numerical questions in the 4th round” and “That 17 second gap you left between questions 6 and 7 of the final round was pure gold!”

Nor would I expect or want them to. But that’s the part that’s important to me. If a quiz comes over as a great quiz, that’s all that really matters, but how we, as QuizQuizQuiz quizmasters, arrive at delivering a great quiz night is a rather more complex process.

Here are a few of the basics

  • Variety. Switching from subject to subject every question, varying length of question, answer type, giving each round a different style, different pacing, different sounds, different pictures.
  • Speed. Never give people time to think they might be bored. Give them just enough time to be sure they’ve heard and understood every question, just enough time to discuss it, just enough time to enjoy getting it right, then move on. No dead air, no dilly-dallying or shilly-shallying. Move from round to round smoothly. Obviously, allow people time to eat if they need to eat, but even in the break, give them a little quiz-related task (e.g. finish your picture rounds).
  • Clarity. Tell people what’s going to happen next. You don’t have to give them a detailed itinerary, in fact it’s far better not to, but make sure everyone knows exactly what is happening and how the current round works. If you repeat a question clearly and efficiently once or several times at the time of asking it first time around, you won’t have to keep repeating all the way through.
  • Authority. Know your material, that’s the single most important thing I’d tell new quizmasters. If you’ve written the questions, read round them a little. If you haven’t written them, know exactly how to pronounce every word, and make sure you know exactly why the right answer is right and why possible alternatives are wrong.
  • Judgement. Even if you can’t, as such, adapt a quiz on the hoof, get a feel for the participants and how they want to be treated. Some quizzers don’t want to be mollycoddled, they just want the good, tough questions and they want to win. Some crowds need all the help and encouragement they can get.

Most of the effort a quizmaster puts in to making a great quiz night goes unnoticed, or should do. But with experience, a quizmaster developers their own set of unseen rules and guidelines which are all rewarded but just by the simple words “That was a fun quiz” at the end of an evening.

 

 

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