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.



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.

Too Easy/Too Hard

I recently recalled the first round of quiz questions that I ever set for QuizQuizQuiz.

It was March 2006, I’d been given a job with the company, I was full of myself and raring to go. I’d already run a couple of quiz nights, which I hadn’t written the questions for. I’d been given some rounds to write for our two weekly pub quizzes (now dormant) in Putney and Hammersmith.

I wrote various questions for various rounds and was assigned the 20 question Jackpot rounds for both quizzes. Excited to see how they went down, I was at the Fox in Putney on Monday night, not as quiz master, but as marker.

I had form with this quiz. In fact, I’d participated in it very successfully for several months – that’s how I got the job. It was a very high standard quiz and the jackpot round was, deliberately, the hardest round. Teams had to score a minimum of 17/20 to have a chance of the money. I knew the target audience, I knew how to pitch it, I thought.

Now, bear in mind, as someone who loved quiz nights, this was my blank slate. They often say about first and second albums that the first is full of the songs the artist has been perfecting their whole life, while the second is something they only have a few stolen months to write. Well, this was my first album, these were my questions, the best I had.

9/20 was the highest score. The quiz had been, as every week, buzzing at the usual expertise of the QuizQuizQuiz quiz master, it was at fever pitch for the culmination, the jackpot round. And my round killed it stone dead. Puzzled looks and shrugs, shouts of “it’s too hard”, “I don’t get it”. I was a little bit crushed.

I’m just looking at the round now on our database. Any gems? A couple, but yes it’s far far too hard, and there are quite a few ambiguous questions – the subject matter is a showy-offy display of my own interests – Scottish indie pop, linguistics, philosophers, 60s athletics and rock music, Medieval history, Art pranksters, ancient Greek, 90s comedy, old radio adverts, Pubs and Beer, African politics, cricket-playing Irish playwrights. I didn’t realise the extent to which my history was not shared history.

I should have, I had no excuse. I’d been to the quiz night for months. But I got it totally wrong.

I still get it wrong occasionally. I ran a corporate quiz with entirely new questions last month and slightly misjudged the first round so that scores ranged from 5 to 9 out of 12 rather than a preferred 7 to 11. I quickly adjusted the difficulty for the rest of the quiz.

Judging the difficulty of quizzes is something anyone can get wrong. People’s gauge is based on what they themselves know and don’t know. To some quiz masters, difficulty may not be that important if they think the questions are interesting enough, but it ought to be.

After 10 years of doing this, we’re now very good at gauging difficulty. We’ve seen 10s of 1000s of questions, we get statistics on how well they’re answered. We’ve turned it into a little bit of science.

It’s still not perfect, as the example of my recent opening quiz round shows. I thought the crowd would know a little more than they did. They were untested questions. But such instances of small misjudgement are pretty rare.

Despite the misadventure of the first round I ever set, I now have a confidence bordering on bullishness in the suitability of my quiz rounds. I have not written a round since where the highest score was less than 50% (well, not without intention and very good reason!)


The best thing at a quiz

I’ve been asking myself – What is the most enjoyable and best sensation for a quiz master at a quiz night?

To me, it is the experience of subverting expectation, of surprising people, of making people feel good about something they didn’t think they would feel good about.

It struck me this can happen on several levels, particularly at a corporate quiz, where the participants are not necessarily experienced and enthusiastic quizzers.

Firstly, people often come into the room simply not looking forward to the quiz. They are there as a work obligation. If you can succeed in giving them a good time, showing them quiz nights can be fun, that is great.

Secondly, a given round might be off-putting to people, whether it’s a single-topic round (eg Sport) or a  more general round with a certain structure/set of rules. Sometimes I’m explaining the rules of a round to people, and some of them look a little confused, and then it’s great when the round is a real hit.

Thirdly, a question can seem quite complex to people to start with, and you can see a few nonplussed faces, before suddenly, as they think about it, they realise it’s not so impenetrable, and their faces light up.

And fourthly, you can send people the wrong way when giving out the answer. It’s a bit of basic trick sometimes (eg … “Bristol (boooo) ……. is the wrong answer, Bath is the correct answer” (hurray)) but there are various ways of doing this in a fun, original way.

This way of turning people around is sometimes a necessity (eg in the first example given, where you’re dealing with an apathetic or antipathetic crowd) but often it’s actually part of the risk-taking involved in a really good quiz.

It’s fun to risk briefly annoying or confusing people to bring them out the other side – that’s the essence of a really good quiz. It’s why Only Connect has become so popular, why people like riddles etc.

Experience as a quiz master tells you when you need to play it a little safer, when you need to keep things as clear and straightforward as possible, when the crowd will remain suspicious all the way through but you can at least give them an enjoyable, (not too terrible!) time.

But the best quizzes definitely involve a little bit of subversion and a little bit of risk.



Saying No

During the planning stage of every quiz night we host, we send our client a full questionnaire asking for a range of information on every aspect of the event – we’ve honed it over the years, and we’ve got pretty much everything covered. We want to know as much as possible about who is taking part in our quiz night and why – we want to give every different company/school/charity/party/department/individual exactly the right quiz for them. That’s what we think makes us good at our job.

Another thing that makes us good at our job is that, on any given night, we can adapt. There are way more teams? Fine. You need two extra rounds? Fine. Dinner’s early? No problem. You’ve just told us that there’s a whole team made up of Slovenian tailors? OK, we can make that work.

We can change, we can adapt, our attitude is never “this is the only way we do it and we’ve got to stick to that” or “sorry, that’s more than my job’s worth …”

but …

There is a fine art to saying no … sometimes …

That’s why we have the questionnaire. We, as quiz experts, people who have run thousands of successful quiz nights, want to know what you want from your event, whether its team building, networking, fundraising or just a good drinking session punctuated with a few questions, and we’ll help you to make that as good as we can. Through back and forth before the quiz, we’ll iron out any logistical issues, any ideas that may be impractical, we’ll be set up and ready to go.

And, on the night, we can certainly be flexible, but our quiz masters know that there is a point where it is better to, as politely as possible, say no. If everything is set, there are five minutes to go until the quiz, and someone of uncertain seniority approaches us to tell us that there must be jokers, there must be bonus points for funny answers, anyone suspected of using their phones should be summarily ejected from the venue, they want to take the mic(or indeed take the mick) and run a round on squid, we are prepared to say “I’m sorry, we won’t be doing that. It’s not going to help the quiz run well”. It happens very rarely, that’s why we’ve got the questionnaire, and we really are amenable and flexible to a lot of last-minute requests on the night, but I hope our clients trust us that we have an understanding of what will compromise the quality of a quiz.

So, yes, strange as it may sound, sometimes the very best thing we can do on a quiz night is say no.

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.

Quiz Master Checklist

When we send quiz packs out to clients to run quizzes themselves, we always include an extensive ‘Quiz Master Guide’ to help them run the event smoothly, which breaks down the format, the running order, etc. And when we hire a new professional quiz master to run quizzes for us, we train them, ease them in, get them over a period of time to the point where they can confidently and skilfully run a quiz for us.

This post will be rather more informal. It’s just a few observations and hints which I just about feel qualified to give to anyone who fancies running a quiz, is new to running quizzes or is trying to get the hang of running quizzes.

First of all, it’s true that anyone can be a quiz master or quiz mistress. At its basic level, it doesn’t need any special talent. We’ve all been to (and still enjoyed) enough quizzes run by dozy, disinterested bar staff to know that’s true.

But not everyone’s going to be good at it. It does require a base level of confidence and clarity in speaking in public, a certain degree of composure, of decent judgement and, in my view, it really does require that you yourself are pretty decent at quizzes.

Having said that, this checklist is for quiz masters, not quiz writers. That’s a different ball game. I’m not going to talk about actual round construction and question writing here.

So here’s a bullet list of tips as they come to me. You may not feel they are universally applicable, but I think they’re a decent place to start.

  • Know your material – I’ve said it here and in other places many many times, but for me this is the Number 1 fundamental. Even if you haven’t written the questions, you have to seem like you have, you have to know their context. This applies to everyone from a TV quiz master to a humble pub quiz host. Otherwise you risk looking like an idiot and a fraud very quickly.
  • Don’t try and be too funny. The quiz is the main thing, funny can be a nice side product. We get a fair few enquiries from aspiring quiz masters telling us they’ve got cracking banter, or words to that effect (if you want to be a QuizMaster for us, we don’t want you to be the entertainment…you are the medium for the entertainment).
  • Be nice. People can be annoying and sometimes you do need to be firm with them, and sometimes it’s ok to put someone down a little to show you’re in control. But, by and large, stay calm, be patient and be nice.
  • Have a clear table/space on the bar in front of you to keep everything tidy and nicely organised..
  • Keep people informed on exactly what is happening in the short term, so they’re not confused and irritated, but keep the long term plans back so that you can adapt, and also retain an element of pleasant surprise.
  • Have a helper to do the marking and field enquiries if you can.
  • Be aware of what is and isn’t pleasant to listen to. It’s really important to get the acoustics as close to right as you possibly can. Do a sound check beforehand, and be aware of where people are sitting in relation to the speakers.
  • Repeat things, sometimes a lot. Questions, question numbers, instructions, answers, scores etc. There’s always someone who wasn’t listening first time, there’s probably someone who will tell you that you didn’t make something clear, and you will be able to be absolutely confident you did if you repeated it!
  • Don’t give half marks.
  • Don’t make up magic bonus marks on the spot!
  • Be aware of pacing. Give people time to work things out but don’t let it drag. Don’t run rounds which turn into epic adventures. Don’t run “sessions” which are too long. One and a half hours is probably longer than one session of a quiz night should be without a break.
  • You don’t have to have background music, but it helps to avoid “dead air”. You can cover not knowing what you’re doing for a second by playing a little background music.
  • What if, heaven forfend, you’re wrong? How do you deal with it? Is the quiz master always right, even if he/she is not? I’m going to sound like a right pompous chump here but I don’t quite remember, as it’s been a long time since I’ve actually run a quiz where one of my answers was wrong, wrong, wrong. That goes back to point 1. I’d say, “no, the quiz master is not always right”. If it’s wrong, it’s wrong. People have google. Who are you trying to kid? Find a way to swallow your pride while holding your dignity if there’s a blatant mistake. However, quite often, a question might have some manner of viable alternative, which people suggest, which the quiz writer hadn’t thought of… I can only say “be flexible” and be prepared to be generous. Use the magic of the internet yourself to confirm facts quickly.
  • Don’t disqualify people. You don’t want a fight to break out.
  • Don’t drink while running a quiz. Well, drink water. Anyone might stumble over their words once or twice within a couple of hours. Stumbling over your words looks a lot worse if you’ve a beer by your side. Also, a little tip from personal misadventure. Don’t drink too much Diet Coke while running pub quizzes or corporate quizzes! Just don’t, trust me. It’s a hard habit to break.

Ok, that’s all I can think of for now. A lot of that is probably blindingly obvious, and I’ve probably missed quite a lot of it. You mightn’t necessarily agree with all of it, but hopefully it’s of some use.

Quiz Night Ideas

A quiz night can just be (and often is) 10/20/30/40/50 fairly random general questions asked in succession. That can make for a great quiz. There doesn’t have to be some overarching concept, there don’t have to be different rounds. Very often, if a quiz is split into rounds, it’ll be, say, 6 rounds of 10 subjects eg Geography, Entertainment, Sport, History, Music, General Knowledge, and again, that can make for a great quiz.

That’s usually not how it works on TV, of course. There have been a few overwhelming simple formats for TV shows (simpler even than 15-to-1) but generally, TV executives/audience want something devious/exciting/clever to hook onto, something that makes the quiz more than just a quiz, and more of a show.

Perhaps led by this, real life quiz nights have become more imaginative. No one wants to drown the sanctity of a fine, solid quiz question in “concept”, but we at QuizQuizQuiz, and numerous other folk who take the business of running quizzes seriously, have tried to find various ways to make the quizzes we run as fun/exciting/interactive/engaging (pick your buzzword!) as possible.

Because I’m a geek (though I pretend not to be) I recently passed my mind over all the quiz nights I’ve ever run for QuizQuizQuiz to see how many distinct round formats there had been (not even just rounds with different names but with the same basic idea). The answer is almost 50, and the funny thing is only about 5 of those are defined by a basic subject matter.

One round that has featured in almost every quiz I’ve ever run is “Music” – no tricks, nothing clever, it’s a music round, mainly involving “Name the artist” clips and a few other things, then there’s “Sport” but these days I include a full Sport round in barely 1 in 5 quizzes. Apart from that, it’s very rare to have any kind of subject-based round – sometimes our client has asked us to do one specially and we’ve obliged, but on the whole, apart from Sport and Music, our rounds are essentially mixed subject, but held together by an idea. (Indeed, even the sport and music rounds can be mixed subject – just with a sport/music theme to them).

So, as a quiz master and question writer, I’m not just thinking about questions, I’m trying to think of round ideas, round ideas that mean a QuizQuizQuiz quiz night incorporates the full armoury of tricks and treats at our disposal, that no one feels left out, that different parts of the brain are utilised, that people are moving, laughing, listening, talking, that the quiz is “interactive” (whatever that means), challenging, varied and fair.

The ideas for those 40-odd rounds have come from various places – sometimes they’re pretty self-explanatory and floating around the quiz ether, sometimes they’re forced upon us by circumstances, sometimes it’s about thinking of a good way to use a new piece of technology. Some round ideas have worked better than others – nothing should be too complicated, nothing too long or too short, rounds should allow variety and hopefully make good use of video and audio clips and a few other tricks that we keep up our sleeves.

The important thing is that our quiz nights have not stayed the same since we began over a decade ago. Sure, some ideas last, and some round ideas have been used regularly by all our quiz masters over a long period of time, but we’re always trying to mix it up. The average format of a quiz I run has changed significantly in the last year, let alone in the last five years.

No matter what the rounds are, one thing that always drives the format of an evening is that we do everything we can to ensure (even guarantee!) that they come with quality questions and plenty of fun.

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,


In March, for the first time, we decided to exhibit at a trade show, specifically Confex at London Olympia, a two-day event for people in the conferences and events industry.

There were stalls belonging to everything from hotels to singers to events companies to ice cream stands to Austin Powers impersonators. There were a lot of extremely impressive stands and big screens and people with clipboards and there was plenty of free coffee.

Since QuizQuizQuiz began, over 10 years ago, we’ve run quizzes at all sorts of events – fundraisers, after work bashes, client events, school competitions, nothing too big or too small. We’ve run plenty of quizzes at conferences too. Usually, these take place at nice hotels outside London, they often take place over dinner, they’re pretty fancy, there are usually various people buzzing around, organising. We’ve gained loads of experience in how to adjust and adapt our quizzes to make them work perfectly for that kind of event.

Sometimes they’re just a way to relax and unwind at the end of a long day, sometimes they’re integral to the team building aspect of the week.

Either way, we’ve been looking to increase the number of Conference quizzes we do, because we do them well, because we suspected it was a relatively untapped market, and because they’re fairly lucrative.

Our suspicions that it was a relatively untapped market were pretty well confirmed at Confex. We spoke to a lot of people who had never considered holding a quiz night at a conference. We were hopefully able to persuade them that it was a workable idea and to explain to them how it would work.

Various members of the QuizQuizQuiz came down and some of us were more natural salesmen and women than others! Rather than try to pretend we were something we’re not, we emphasized the fun element of what we do. We engaged people with picture rounds and quiz questions and gave away a lot of jelly beans. We ran a few ad hoc buzzer rounds and generally tried to give people something enjoyable as they wandered round what occasionally could have been quite a dry event.

Time will tell how much new business we brought in. We’re already seeing positive results. We happen to think that a quiz night, especially a QuizQuizQuiz quiz night, works wonders in almost every context, and sometimes it’s worth making the effort to explain that to people who might not have considered it before.