Drinking and Quizzing

Pub Quiz. Pub. Quiz. The relationship between our line of work and demon alcohol is quite explicitly established. As a professional quiz master, I’m regularly offered a glass of wine by the kind host when I’m running a quiz night, but have never accepted, and never will. The reason is simple. In the general course of running a two hour quiz, I might well stumble over my words once or twice, which is absolutely fine. However, if i were to stumble over my words and I’d just be seen taking a sip of wine, that veneer of professionalism might slip, even if there was no actual correlation between the two.

However, we obviously have no problem with our participants drinking. As a participant in pub quizzes, I have seen plenty of teams going dry, perhaps to aid their quiz skills, perhaps because that’s just the way they roll. I’ve pretty much never felt a few beers curbed my quiz powers – I only remember one night in a jackpot round suddenly finding that my powers of clear thinking were a little blurred – that might just as well have been the sheer high-octane pressure of the situation though. It’s safe to say though that quizzing is not one of those activities, like driving, playing football, or walking in a straight line, which is seriously inhibited by drinking.

Having said all that it would not be true to say that we are not a little wary of how events wil turn out if we know participants will be extremely well lubricated as the quiz progresses. A conference, say, at a hotel, where there is a break of a couple of hours between end of day and dinner, then an hour’s dinner before we start the quiz – we can be fairly sure that the atmosphere will be significantly livelier than at a quiz starting at 6 straight after work. Livelier is perhaps the wrong word. Lively is altogether good. Lively and merry is what we aim for. Drunken could occasionally tip over into belligerent and disruptive. That is when quizmaster skills are really called upon. I once ran a quiz in Leith Dockers Club starting at 10 pm on a Sunday night after a charity karaoke night. That was perhaps the most extreme example of dealing with merriness I’ve ever had. I quickly worked out that the best way to run the quiz was to speak as little as possible. Despite my Celtic heritage, my moderately plummy English tones were a source of some amusement and gentle abuse. Once I worked out how to play it, the quiz night was great fun.

People who are drunk don’t want to be mocked or told off. I’ve found the best way to deal with a generally drunken atmosphere is to be firm, polite and a little indulgent. I’ve never had the mood turn at all ugly at any quiz I’ve run (touch wood). Considering that pub quizzes contain a slightly dangerous combination of competitiveness, the possibility of cheating, and alcohol, that’s something to be fairly proud of.

Are you a teetotal pub quizzer, or do you find a few pints helps you perform better at the quiz?

2 replies
  1. QuizBitch
    QuizBitch says:

    I never have a drink until the final question has been asked!

    Helps me to keep my head if some less abstaining contestant gets upset about an answer or a decision … and gentle humour works best to diffuse that. Also, owning up to a mistake if you have made one, or acknowledging an ambiguity that you hadn’t spotted in advance, generally goes down well, even with a drunk crowd. The trick is to own up then move on.

    • admin
      admin says:

      Many thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      It is definitely important for the QuizMaster to be in a state to make proper decisions about any situations that come up so they can resolved sensibly (which, as you say, can certainly include admitting to a mistake and resolving it in a good humoured manner).


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