Common Quiz Night Complications Part 5: Questions in Advance

Every now and then we are asked, usually by events companies on behalf of their clients, if it will be possible to see the questions we are going to ask at their quiz night in advance. It seems to be a perfectly reasonable request (as long as we don’t find out that whoever has seen the questions in advance has then participated in the quiz – this does happen…!) but we strongly suggest that this process is not only unnecessary but very counterproductive for the quality of the quiz.

Why is it unnecessary? Clients may well want to make sure the questions are not inappropriate or rude, are well-judged for their staff, make sure the difficulty level is right, may even have their own suggestions about what will make a good question. Occasionally, for a certain type of event, a collaboration between ourselves and our client works well – if there is a very specific aim (e.g. a brand launch) or a very particular theme. But this is rare indeed.

By and large, it’s unnecessary because we know what we’re doing. We spend all our working (and waking hours) striving to make quiz questions and quiz rounds work perfectly. We can find out enough about the event and the questions required in an initial consultation to make sure we get the questions right. We don’t include inappropriate material and we’re very good at judging difficulty. If we do agree to clients seeing questions in advance, we do our best to stipulate that we’ll accept comment on the subject matter and feel of the quiz, but not really on the difficulty of specific questions. A client may flag up certain questions as “too hard” or “too easy”. What that means,usually, is simply that they do or don’t know the answer themselves (and rarely is it a balanced judgement based on writing and asking tens of thousands of questions for different audiences). Furthermore, our quizzes are structured so as to include some questions which are relative “gimmes”, some which are extremely tricky, and some which may appear difficult but are in fact relatively easy (and vice-versa). We don’t want everything to be at same level. It’s not untrue to say that 99% of the feedback we’ve had to act on about questions being too easy or too hard has been unhelpful to the quality of the quiz.

We hope that when people pay to book us, they accept what we offer. We have skills and expertise and a process, and hopefully they can trust us that it works.

That’s where it can get to being counterproductive for people to want to see quiz questions in advance. In general, we don’t prepare a quiz weeks in advance. In fact, the content of the quiz is never set in stone. The skill of all our QuizMasters is to be able to adapt the questions and rounds as the quiz is happening. I might have mapped out roughly what I’m going to ask beforehand but, for whatever reason, that might need to change on the night. The timings might go askew, there might be more non-British people than we’d been told, everyone might be getting a little more drunk that we had anticipated – the ability to change the quiz as it is happening is one of the very most important things that make our quizzes, we think, a cut above the rest.

I’ve often felt, if running a quiz where we’d sent our client the questions beforehand and everything was set in stone for the night “I wish I could change this a bit”.

We often compare our work to that of a stand-up comedian or an after-dinner speaker or a DJ: the jokes, anecdotes or tracks don’t necessarily work out of context, and we wouldn’t expect them to send their routine, speech or tracklist in advance…this is also why we are often reluctant to send “sample questions”: if you were booking a comedian you’d judge his/her performance as a whole rather than on the basis of a few one-liners out of context of the whole set. A good comedian, speaker or DJ adapts on the night to the audience, as does a top quality quiz master.

We’re far from awkward: we want to make sure we talk with our clients beforehand in order to deliver the very best quiz we can, but we do hope that means we are trusted to get our questions right without needing to go through them in advance.

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