First Hand Experience of Question Difficulty

This is a follow-up to the last post – I want to expand on how the different aspects of our work fit together. (These two strands are hosted quiz nights and quiz question writing for TV shows, games, iPhone apps etc.)

Those have always been the two main areas of our business – over the years the hosted quizzes have taken the lead, certainly they’ve been more consistent. The question writing side obviously depends a little more on what comes along. I mean, we’re always writing questions, but we’re not always working on a major commission – more like bits and bobs here and there.

In the last couple of years, there’s been a lot of really good question writing work, so much so that there has been less time for our main question writers to run quizzes.

Yet, the experience of hosting quizzes is vital, I think, to our writing questions successfully.

I’ve run over 400 quizzes for people all over this country and occasionally overseas, for people of all ages, in different industries, for different purposes. I’ve asked questions on every topic that makes a good quiz question and a few that don’t.

And I get to see, first hand, how those questions go down. I get to see what people know and don’t know, what they’re proud to know and what they don’t care about knowing, what’s workoutable and what’s not.

And because our quizzes are for different clients, we get to re-use questions, so we know whether a response, positive or negative, is a one-off or not.

And that’s just me – between us, as a company, we’ve run over 3000 quizzes, and we ask our clients and our quiz masters to feed back on every event. So, we know very well if a question is a big hit or not.

This gives us a vital edge when it comes to question writing for TV, we think. To us, calibration, alongside entertainment, is more than guesswork. We have evidence to back up the fact that we know how to set quizzes, to write questions that people want to participate in and puzzle over.

It’s not just the hosted quizzes, either. There’s also the Friday Quiz, which started in 2008 and now goes out to thousands of people a week. Every week, I look at how people have done, how many people have bothered trying to answer each question, how many have got it right. This is vital information to understanding what people do and don’t know.

Anyone can reasonably think they’re an expert in quizzes, anyone who writes questions, participates in a lot, watches a lot, but we think our combined experience puts us in a privileged position. You’re left with egg on your face if you think you always know exactly how a question is going to be answered, but the numbers work themselves out.

We see hundreds, if not thousands, of people answering our questions. Most question writers only ever see one or two people answering questions they write, so they get very skewed calibration feedback.

We tell our quiz masters, when they run quizzes, that the right level involves the worst team not slipping much below 50% and the best team not getting above 90% – an ideal spread is between about 60% and 85%. And that’s what happens. Almost every time.

It’s not a naturally easy thing – the first round I ever set, which I was terribly proud of, the scores ranged between 6 and 11 out of 20. It was a disaster. The questions, in and of themselves, were mainly interesting enough, but they were all at the harder end of the scale, some of them weren’t possible to work out. Despite my love for quizzes and my concern for getting it right, I didn’t yet have the first-hand experience of getting the overall level right.

So, this is what we do. We host quizzes and we write questions. They feed into each other. Every question I’ve ever written and every question I’ve ever asked and seen answered feeds into how I write now.

The best quiz you’ve ever been to

When I first became a quiz master for QuizQuizQuiz, almost ten years ago, I remember Jack, David and Lesley-Anne,  the company’s founders, all telling me independently that even though I’d just started, this, the first quiz that I was going to run might well be the best quiz night that most of the people attending had ever been to.

Not so bold a claim as it might first appear – notwithstanding that it might just be the first quiz night some people at our corporate events had ever been to, it might well have been that many attendees had previously encountered only run-of-the-mill pub quizzes, with 50 lifeless questions rattled through for a tenner, and we could be entirely confident, 10 years ago, that the material, the care, the thought, the variety of our quizzes was at a higher level than most people had ever encountered before.

Can we still be so sure of this? No, probably not. The world of quizzes has moved on (we’d like to think, following our lead). There are many more companies and individuals who claim to run high end quiz nights, there is wider availability and understanding of the kind of technology that can spruce up a quiz. There’s a good chance that plenty of the participants at one our of quiz nights have been to some pretty good quizzes before. Furthermore, so many of our quizzes our for repeat clients, who book us again and again, that an awful lot of people at an awful lot of the quizzes we run have been to a number of marvellous QuizQuizQuiz quizzes before. The quizzes where you’d get a buzz of excitement just from unveiling a fancy image on a screen are few and far between.

Can we really keep on exceeding ourselves? Well, we can try. It’s still important to go into every quiz thinking that it might be/can be the best quiz that some participants have ever been to, that it might stoke a dormant passion for quizzes in someone. When you’ve run several hundred quizzes, you may not find that every quiz you run is the most exciting and brilliant that you yourself have ever been to, you may encounter different obstacles, different crowds, different timings which make it easier or harder to run the ideal quiz, but there’s still a very good chance that if we keep on writing questions with care, innovating with round formats, devising new ways to engage people at every level, creating new audio and visual material, reconsidering the best ways to organise and compere quiz nights, it will be the best quiz lots of people in attendance have ever been to.

Running Quiz Nights

I’ve run quite a few quiz nights recently, and they’ve all gone smoothly. It’s not for me to judge if everyone there had the best time of their lives (I expect they did!) but there were lots of smiles and cheers and nice comments at the end. Very pleasing, and what I’ve also noticed is that there hasn’t been a single “issue” to deal with, no connectivity problems to sort out, no awkward room spaces, no accusations of cheating or changes in timetable, nothing like that.

Tempting fate I know, but pretty much every quiz night I’ve run this year has gone exactly according to plan. If they didn’t go swimmingly (which I think they did) it would have been no one’s fault but my own.

Is that preferable? Yes, pretty much. Having said that, it can be very satisfying to triumph against the odds, to deal with tricky situations and run the best quizzes we can. Quiz nights like those I’ve run recently are basically as easy as they look , but quite often it’s rather thrilling to keep everything looking controlled and easy while working extremely hard, just beneath the surface.

That, above all, is what being a QuizQuizQuiz Quiz Master is all about – if something goes wrong, being able to cover it so no one notices that anything has gone wrong. I remember, nine years ago, at one of the very first events where I was a professional quiz master, doing a full sound and visual check at a hotel conference room, then leaving the room for a work presentation, only to come back and find that there was no audio feed from my laptop and no one could figure out why. I managed to just run the best quiz I could with a complete change of questions, emphasis on visuals and interactivity and none of the participants were any the wiser. One thing I was told very early on, which we’re proud to say is still true, is that, whatever problems I have to deal with, it’s still going to be the best quiz most of our clients have ever been to. We really think that. In fact we know it.

So, sometimes, I have a run of quizzes which go completely without a hitch. The timings are spot on, the teams are smart, polite, cheerful, well-organised, the room is the right size, the sound is crystal clear, the food is good, the angels are singing etc …some time soon, the food will come out late, there’ll be 5 more teams than we were told, there’ll be a team made up entirely of people who don’t speak English, the mic i’ve been provided with will cut out, it happens … and it’s still a great quiz night, in fact sometimes even better than it would have been. And those are the ones which are often the most memorable of all for a quiz master.

What makes a quiz round?

This is a subject I’ve dropped into various posts before, but I don’t think I’ve ever written specifically on it. I’ll keep it brief and to the point.

We try to avoid quiz rounds which are too subject-specific. We get a lot of enquiries where people suggest something like “8 rounds on the usual subjects … History, Geography, Food and Drink, Sport, Entertainment, Science, Roundabouts and can we have a round on X-Factor …?” and we do our best to persuade people, nearly always successfully, that we will include all those subjects (though we might keep Roundabouts to a minimum unless we’re absolutely sure it’ll go down well) but we’ll just spread them out a bit between rounds.

The logic is fairly simple. If a round is on a specific subject and that specific subject is not to someone’s liking, they’re more likely to switch off for its duration. And if lots of people aren’t into a subject, lots of people will switch off, and we don’t want that, obviously. Likewise, if a few people are an expert on a given subject, and lots aren’t, then that’s a bit unfair.

There’s another good reason. We want to fit as many good questions into our quizzes as possible, within well-structured rounds. If we’ve agreed to do a round on, say, Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms of the 7th Century, it may be that they’re aren’t 10 top-class questions on that subject with varying difficulty enough to make a nicely nuanced round.

That reminds me of how we always used to start our quizzes for new clients (not so much now, so i don’t feel like I’m giving away a trade secret). We’d bring up a screen which showed a classical temple, and say “And now, the first round, on Ancient Greek Architecture …” to accompanying groans, before saying “Just kidding” clicking on the screen and the image would be shown to be part of something far more fun and engaging, to general relief and excitement.

The point being that a round on Ancient Greek Architecture would not be a great way to start a quiz, even (mainly) for experts on Ancient Greek Architecture.

We want our quiz rounds to allow for variety, to be intriguing, to get people talking, to be fair to all players. So we’re always coming up with quiz night ideas, tools for our quiz masters to keep the full crowd interested and on their toes. Over the course of our quizzes, we hope that you’ll get some questions on your favourite broad area, whether it’s Geography, History, Language, Drinks, Sport, TV, Film, Books, Art, Music, Politics or Animals, Chemistry, Business, Computers, Food, or whatever. Some of the questions, in fact a lot of them, will incorporate several of those subjects all at once. That’s another thing – good quiz questions can be hard to categorise.

When we used to run a  pub quiz, we ran a round in which, week on week, we asked teams to submit topics from which we’d choose 3 to have 5 questions of each the next week. What came back was endlessly inventive – Salty Snacks of the 80s, Kriss Akabusi, Questions that the Bar Staff could answer, Accidental Celebrity Genitalia, Big Feet, Bubbles, Countries that Don’t Exist … you get the idea. But in order to make it work, we had to think laterally. Each sub-topic had to be played with in order not to turn the joke sour and maintain the integrity of the round – and make even obscure specialist subjects accessible to the non-specialist.

If you come to one of our Corporate Quizzes, what you’ll get is a range of well-developed, easy-to-explain, enjoyable rounds which usually cover a bit of everything. Even people praying for a round on Roundabouts don’t end up feeling hard done by (actually they might do, but hopefully they’ll enjoy everything else!).

Making quizzes work for a mixed audience

This is a guest post by veteran QuizQuizQuiz QuizMaster Barry Bridges

I’ve been inspired to put pen to paper (or should that be finger to keyboard?) following a quiz that I ran last night which involved a very challenging, complicated audience.

They weren’t challenging because they were loud, rude or rowdy – far from it – but instead the difficulty came from the fact that within the small group of participants sat some of the very top names from within the British judiciary, including a number of high court judges. It would be a lie if I said I wasn’t a little intimidated.

As a general rule, if I ever want to make a quiz more difficult I tend to push the questions into a higher-brow direction. Last night was the first quiz I have run in nearly 9 years where to make the questions more challenging I skewed them towards a low-brow, popular culture direction.

All of which leads me to ask the semi-rhetorical question: how do you handle audiences which have a very disparate mix of abilities, cultural references and where the standard of general knowledge is very high? I’d like to share my thoughts.

First off, I’m a firm believer that quizzes need to be inclusive. One approach I am not keen on is making some questions appeal to one part of the audience and other questions appeal to others: for me that  that doesn’t work as I think we want people to participate in the whole quiz; not for it to feel like there are several mini-quizzes taking place at the same time. Additionally, if you’re cherry-picking questions to cater for specific sub-audiences, the quiz doesn’t scan well; easier questions alienate brainboxes as much as intellectual questions put off the man-on-the-street.

A key part of how I like to make mixed groups work is to include questions which are very much outside of everyone’s immediate frame of reference, which require a problem-solving element. For example, Call My Bluff-type questions work well, as do questions that might ask people to place locations on the map that you’ve heard of, but might not know the position of.

Around this, I would argue that you shouldn’t be afraid of popular culture: it’s a great leveller. Often, I’ve found that the more high-brow the audience is, the more they like to be indulged with a question on Eastenders, or teased with a clip of Kylie and Jason. I’m convinced by my own theory that even the greatest intellectual snobs secretly like to switch on X Factor when no-one is looking.

When all is said and done though, what happens if – despite all your attempts – you genuinely cannot reconcile a group of very different abilities? When one team is streaks ahead of the rest, or when one team is proving to be a rather tragic lantern rouge? I think there are two ways of addressing this.

The first one – although drastic – is to put a group out of their misery. Although cheating is most definitely not allowed (and we’re pretty good at spotting it if someone does try to bend the rules) I don’t feel there is any harm in giving a bit of additional support to a team that is languishing miles behind everyone else, provided it’s done with good intentions and in the knowledge that no number of clues will ever catapult them onto the metaphorical podium (although I would caveat this by saying that if a quiz has a wooden spoon prize, we would never deprive a genuinely badly-performing team with the chance to come away as the ‘loser’!).

The second one is to play up to the worst team’s lack of knowledge and showcase this in front of others. You would be surprised just how proud some people are of their lack of general knowledge; it’s a great talking point within the office and 9 times out of 10 the team in last place has a company-wide reputation for troublemaking and hi-jinks. Sometimes, the more you highlight their woeful performance, the more they feel involved (and – ironically – the more teams sometimes try to compete for the last place position).

So, in summary, catering for a mixed crowd can be difficult. You never want a walkover, but at QuizQuizQuiz I’m very careful to structure the quiz and question-order to provide a varied, balanced data of cerebral interrogation which caters to everyone in some form. You can’t please all of the people all of the time, but hopefully I please all of the people most of the time, which is the next best thing.

Common Quiz Night Complications Part 3

This one will be very short – a suggestion that we come up against every now and then at our quiz nights is that teams should be able to “buy” clues to questions.

Now, I don’t want to be too dismissive, because the purpose is obviously to make money for charity [we do a lot of charity quizzes] and we don’t really want to stand in the way of that, but this is not one of the better ways of getting cash from people, if the quality and integrity of a quiz is at all important (which it usually should be).

If you set no limit on the number of clues teams can get, then conceivably, taken to its logical conclusion, the quiz could be won by the worst team with the most money to spend. Interesting reflection on modern life that may be, but it’s a terribly unsatisfactory way to resolve a quiz.

Then again, if there are limits to the number of clues everyone can buy, then the chances are the clues won’t make any difference at all, as everyone’s score will be improved by exactly the same amount, and they end the evening slightly less satisfied and pleased with themselves than they would have been. Of course, the plus side is that a bit of money has been made for charity, so some would say it is worth the damage to the quality and integrity of the quiz.

But there are plenty of ways to raise money on a given evening, and fewer ways to hold an excellent quiz night.

What are the best extra fundraising quiz elements that you’ve come across?

Common Quiz Night Complications Part 2

You may recall we’re going to write a series of short posts about ideas people sometimes come up with for their quizzes which, though well-intentioned, are generally complicated, hard to enforce and detrimental – and thus we usually (quite strongly) recommend against them.

Last week it was overaggressive theming at a quiz. This week, quite briefly, it’s…

Penalty Points and Bonus Points

I’m going to mention penalty points for teams cheating and (as was suggested to me last week and comes up quite often) extra points for teams with fewer members.

I’m pretty much against all bonus points. By bonus points I mean anything which doesn’t relate to how good you are at the quiz – so things like best team name, best costume, how quickly you get your sheet in. I’d pretty firmly stand against any suggestions that these should affect the result of the quiz. If I’ve ever had to give in to any of those, I’ve made sure it’s a very small number of points. And giving people a separate prize if you want to reward them for any of these things is a much better idea.

OK, it’s not the Olympics, and the main aim is fun, but a quiz should have some integrity, otherwise someone’s going to leave feeling sour. So no extra points for being able to sing the theme tune from ‘Cheers’, ok?

And likewise with penalty points. Even more than integrity in this case, it’s about atmosphere. Penalty points = Bad vibes. A quiz master is able to hold the authority of a room in as much as he is helping people to enjoy themselves and they will enjoy themselves most if they listen to him/her and follow any instructions from him/her. He has no actual authority in the lives of the people he is running the quiz for. If they turn against him, he has nowhere else to go really. Particularly with corporate quizzes. We’ve been brought in to do a job and the job is get people to have a good time. Penalty points will always be disputed, and what happens then? An arbitration panel? An appeal court?

Finally, something which can be a potential source of bonus points and penalty points: adjustment of scores according to team size.  This is suggested surprisingly often, but, like many things, is not quite as simple as it might at first seem.

Firstly, if there is a team which is smaller than others, that is (usually) their own issue or choice, they could have had more team members.

Secondly, if they win, then they might get £100, or 6 massive boxes of chocolates between 5 people, and not between 8 people. Well That’s nice for them. And if they do badly, well they can (and will) use it as an excuse. And if they beat a rival team then they can (and usually will) amplify their gloating rights.

And, primarily, how on earth are you meant to work it out? Is one person half as good as two? Is a team of 3 half as good as a team of 6? Of course not. Most people’s knowledge overlaps, so it may only be pretty small margins where there is a benefit to a larger team. Indeed, sometimes, in certain quizzes, too many cooks can spoil the broth.

We try very hard before our quizzes to make sure team numbers are evenly spread. We don’t like teams above 7 but if every team has 10 (for example for a dinner quiz) so be it. If most teams have 6ish and there is a team of 10, we’ll get them to split up. All that is much better than penalty points.

All in all, we’re not fans of penalty points or bonus points. Keep it clean, keep it fair!

Common Quiz Night Complications Part 1

Here begins a shorter series of posts (at least I hope they’re short, brevity is not always my strong point) about the suggestions our client sometimes have which, though they may be imaginative and well-intentioned, are more likely to have a detrimental affect on the quiz than positive.

It’s probably safe to say that our default position on such suggestions is sceptical and in need of clear persuasion and a reason why it’s either better than the quiz would otherwise be or intrinsic to the purpose of the evening.

The latter is important. Sometimes a client might suggest something we think is overcomplicated and potentially fraught, like, say, swapping team members, and we’ll have strong doubts. If we then discover that the purpose of the conference they’re at is to do with, say, working with different people in different contexts, we understand and make that concept work, either in its current form or by suggesting something that fulfils their aims even better, and that we know will work.

We know that people have the best intentions for their quiz and that sometimes there is an agenda beyond just having a great quiz, be it team building or raising money. So we do listen; we just have experience of the fact that not every idea is a good one, and we have a very good nose for when this is the case.

So, what first?

Theming

A common one, and often a pretty reasonable one. “We’ve got a pirate theme”. “It’s a sports quiz”. “We want people to think about speed and buildings”. “The concept is atonement …” All but the last one are real … that would be a heavy quiz.

So, ok, you’ve got a theme, but be careful with it. Let’s take an example. If your theme, for whatever reason, is the London Underground, do you want every question to be about the Underground, do you want the Quiz Master dressed in a tube driver’s uniform (don’t go there!)? Are you sure? Does everyone taking part love and know a lot about the tube? How about something simpler, like naming teams after tube lines, and a few questions here and there about the tube.

Which tube line has the most stations south of the River Thames?, for example.

The same applies to almost anything, Don’t let the theme overwhelm the quiz. It could be a dud. We’re a little wary about even having a single round on one subject – we don’t really do a Food round, a Geography round, a History round etc and have written at length about caution at using a Sport round.

So, even a Sport, Film or Book quiz, large themes though they are, is in danger of being a bit monochrome, a bit weighted and unfair.

Around this time of year and in the next month or so, there’ll be a fair few Halloween or Christmas quizzes for us, which is great, but we’d try to avoid the whole quiz being about those subjects, and it requires a fair bit of thought in the question writing to come up with fair, fun and interesting questions throughout.

So, themes. Be careful with them. The biggest issues are that themes can be exclusive, overwhelming and forced. They can certainly make an evening more fun but not, I think, if the theme is bigger than the quiz.

 

How long is a piece of quiz?

When people book a quiz night with us, they can book us, as long as we have availability, for whenever they like and for as long as they like.

But that is not to say that we don’t have a good idea of how much time a good quiz should take up. We can make a 20 minute quiz great and we can make a three hour quiz great, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t be a bit better if they were closer to the optimum length.

I’m going to carry on with my theme of comparing quizzes to other forms of entertainment. How long is a good gig? Generally if you get less than an hour, you feel short-changed, and if it’s over two hours, you’re running out of puff. There are exceptions, of course. I saw Leonard Cohen last month and the old genius played for three hours (including a 20 minute break) and it was all magnificent. But, two things 1)  to my chagrin, I had to leave a minute before the end of the final song of the 3rd encore, otherwise I would get caught in the crowd leaving and definitely miss the last train home. As it was I only just made it (as you can tell, I’m finding it hard to forgive myself) 2) Leonard Cohen is a legend of 20th century culture who I and 20,000 other people felt privileged to be in a room with. QuizQuizQuiz QuizMasters are all excellent at our job, but we don’t presume to hold such personal sway!

We provide entertainment. When a gig is entertainment (as opposed to recital/masterclass), it has an optimum length (1 1/2 hour- ish), as does a film (between 1 1/2 and 2 1/2, and even 2 1/2 is pushing it, take note The Hobbit etc). A masterful work-of-art film, watched by real fans and buffs, may take longer to unravel, but again, we know, as QuizMasters, we are not creating a work of art.

Furthermore, a quiz is a participatory experience – it is more mentally draining than a film or a gig. 3 hours of quiz could give anyone brainache!

What else? Booze. We’ve written before about the role of booze in a quiz. it’s unavoidable and it’s also perfectly welcome. But I think we all know a room full of people drinking for 2 hours has a very different atmosphere and attention span to a room full of people drinking for 3 hours.

I’m pretty happy running a quiz for anything between an hour and two and a half hours, but I do think 1 1/2 – 2 hours is optimum. This gives time for a real momentum, a real test of different subjects, a spread of scores to develop, for the cream to rise to the top, for any quietness and reticence at the start to be completely overcome, but it also means that people don’t begin to get quiz fatigue.

We do often get asked to do longer quizzes, sometimes people will book us from 7 to 11, but we are usually able to persuade people that is a bit long.

The thing is, people may be used to slow and steady quizzes with long gaps between rounds where the marking is done, lots of general awkward spaces, and 3-4 hours time being just enough time for, say, 100 points. Because of the way we run our quizzes, with the speed of marking and emphasis on pacing and flow, we can probably fit in more in a shorter space of time (while also giving people plenty of time to think).

All the timings I have given have not mentioned breaks. Breaks are also an important part of the evening. Again, there is probably an ideal of one break, of 15 to 45 minutes, depending on what food people have. More than one break, for whatever reason, can shatter momentum, as can one break which is too long. However, if I’m doing any quiz of over an hour and a half, even if a break is not written in to the evening, I’d recommend one – and usually put one in, if only to avoid a mass cigarette/loo/fresh air exodus at a point where a sudden, temporary emptying of people will affect the momentum of the quiz (and indeed my control of that momentum).

So, what’s the optimum? Honestly. Notwithstanding “we’ll fit into any schedule”, true though that is.

I like a quiz that starts at 7 (with people hanging around and having a drink or two for half an hour or so beforehand), breaks for half an hour at 8, finished by 9.30. Perfect. It’s amazing how many event planners see things exactly the same way. I’ve probably done more quizzes that fitted that precise time frame than any other. Within that time, I’ll be able to fit in up to 9 rounds of different lengths, pacing and format, including picture rounds and buzzers, and there will be 100+ available points. That seems like plenty!

How long is the quiz you run, or take part in? Could it be longer or shorter, and how do you maintain people’s interest for the length of time?

 

The younger generation

I’m almost 35. Not young anymore. Not long since I was young, but not young like the young folks anymore. This is fine. I can’t play football anymore, can’t play cricket without my whole body aching for a week, but it’s fine. It’s not the issue here.

I’m talking about quizzes here. What difference does my age make to my ability to run quizzes? Well, it depends who it’s for, doesn’t it? We run quizzes for all ages, from Primary School children to venerable pre-rock’n’roll quizzers, but the heaviest weighting is, as it has always been, the mid-to-late twenties. When I started running quizzes for QuizQuizQuiz, I was in my mid-to-late twenties. It was quite rare to be running quizzes for people significantly younger than me. This has changed.

What’s more, we run more and more quizzes for students and interns, people who are nominally adults but really are a whole generation younger than me. Can my quiz master skills cope with this?

First of all, once I hit 33 I didn’t start exclusively listening to opera, watching Ingmar Bergman films and complaining that it’s not like it was in the good old days. I still have relatively “young” tastes, if they were ever young. I’m into pop music (of a sort), modern films, watch things on TV other than ‘Antiques Roadshow’ and hang out on street corners drinking alcopops. So, in a sense, and especially as it’s my actual job, it really shouldn’t be that hard for me to know what works in a quiz for folk a few years younger than me.

But I am noting a few more challenges, as the gap gets wider year by year. I do think it’s particularly marked because there has been the most remarkably accelerated rate of change in media, communication and culture in the, say, 15 year gap between me and the intern quizzer. Just remember, when I left school, hardly anyone was using the internet (I don’t think I’d even heard of it, though I was the kind of kid who thought these computers were just a flash in the pan), there was certainly no facebook or twitter, about 10% of people had a mobile phone, most of us still had 4 (not even 5!) TV channels, Top of the Pops was still a popular show and the way to find out about what was in the charts, I could go on … some of it is trivial, some of it is pretty significant, impacting on the whole way people grow up, what they know, what they like, how they understand the world.

So, what you really want to know is, are the kids any good at quizzing? Yes, pretty good, and in some ways you don’t have to alter that much to get the tone and the content right. I haven’t yet had anyone shouting out “Hey grandad, this is so square …” or whatever the whippersnappers say these days.

There’s obviously a chance of getting it wrong by referencing something they’ve no idea about, whether it’s The Fast Show or Menswear or England putting in a decent performance at a major football tournament, but, actually, that’s pretty straightforwardly avoided if you give it enough thought beforehand. [Don’t get me wrong, it is important to avoid that, important not to think you have a shared cultural background and what you were watching/listening to when you were growing up is the slightest relevant to what’ll be fun for them]. It’s actually the opposite that is more the problem, though – in avoiding stuff that you worry may not be suitable, there may be a tendency to play it safe, make it too easy, even patronise them.

For a start, there’s certainly no particular reason why their general knowledge, geography, history, politics etc won’t be as strong as anyone else’s, or their ability to think quizzily and work out puzzling questions. Indeed, their tendency to drink a little less than the more experienced quizzer can mean their heads are a little clearer for trickier questions.

It’s when it comes to “culture” that it can be trickiest, whether that’s Video Games, TV, Films or particularly Music. Because I don’t know exactly what they know, what they’ve experienced, how they take it all in, and can only work it out approximately, there’s a real danger of asking something which just seems like the simplest, most pointless thing in the world. “Here’s a question about one of those video games you all seem to spend all your time playing.” “Yes, but what you’re asking us is like asking us what is 2+2”. It can be like that if you’re not careful.

And the same applies to pop music – I don’t just know what the big hits were of my era, I know which songs were kind-of hits, tunes you’d remember but might not be too sure who they’re by, and that’s what makes a good question. I know what old bands people my age might know about, too. It takes a fair bit of research and experience to get a music round right for younger people – will they know Frank Sinatra, the Stone Roses, will they know the Strokes, say, whose first album came out when a current university student was about 7? Yes, they know the modern chart-toppers, the songs that are everywhere, but the skill is going a little deeper.

It’s an interesting, and growing, challenge. The gap in age will continue to grow between me and the average corporate quiz participant. As a company, we’ll take on new, possibly younger, quiz masters, every now and then, and we’ll think more and more conscientiously about making sure our round formats and questions are tailored to the audience, whatever their age. Quzzing is certainly not a young man or woman’s game, so I don’t think I’ll have to hang up the spikes just yet – maybe now is a good time to take inspiration from the Rolling Stones and look forward to entertaining the kids of quiz for another four decades.