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.