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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.

 

Levels of Questions

As something of a follow-up to my last post about Corporate and Company Quizzes, I’m going to write a little about the varying levels of difficulty you might find at different quizzes.

This is sparked by recently hearing a view from a pub quiz master that he believed that corporate quizzes are generally much harder than pub quizzes, which, I must say, is not my experience at all.

When we used to write one or two pub quizzes a week, and then use the accumulated pub quizzes as source material for our corporate quizzes, it was definitely true that the difficulty was significantly reduced from pub quiz to corporate. To be fair, this was a particularly strong pub quiz crowd. There were a high number of high quality teams, and we tailored the difficulty to reflect that.

And by and large, that’s what every quiz should do, so it would be slightly inaccurate of me to simply say “Corporate quizzes are easier than pub quizzes” – if I know that a corporate event I’m running is for a number of really good teams, I’ll up the difficulty level, and likewise, I’ve been to some really easy pub quizzes.

Generally, though, my reflection is that, because pub quiz goers are people who have gone somewhere to take part in a quiz, they tend to like quizzes and have some competence in them, whereas a corporate quiz is usually a pretty random assortment of workers who don’t necessarily have any inclination to quiz. Generally, that’s how I find it, and why, in general, pub quizzes are tougher than company quiz events.

Perhaps it’s more interesting to consider easy and difficult questions, and, to expand on that, easy and difficult quizzes, in a few different ways.

Firstly, it is, I think harder to write easy questions than to write difficult questions. To come up with a real gem of an easy question is always a great pleasure. Perhaps what I mean is it’s hardest to write easy questions that aren’t facile. “What’s the capital of Belgium?” OK, that’s not a hard question to write. “What three word phrase connects ‘Bob the Builder’ and Barack Obama?” – still very easy, but a little bit more pleasing to ask and to answer.

I’d tentatively suggest that a pub quiz may contain a few more facile questions – questions about what’s happened recently where all you need is to have read the paper to get it. That’s fine – in the context of any quiz, not everything needs be a beautifully constructed brainteaser.

Too many facile questions are, of course, a real turn-off. One can sometimes see the people that rate themselves at quizzes rolling their eyes if a question is a bit too simple. [Incidentally, a real delight then is the question that appears facile but, without being a trick, trips people up. I have a really good one of those at the moment, where I often see someone scoffing when it’s asked, then getting it wrong – “What year is 100 years after 90 BC?” Think before you join the scoffers …]

It’s not always about easy/difficult anyway, but more about suitable/not suitable to the participants. And then you can ask, which participants? All the participants, or the best, or the worst? What I find is that even very good teams rarely get over 90% in a quiz, even if it is “easy” – the easiness will mean that the less good teams’ scores will improve. A “hard” quiz is likely to mean greater separation, and, for me as a quiz master, that’s not really desirable. As I’ve said various times, I want a range between 60% and 90%. If I get close to that, I’m happy and know that I’ve done a pretty good job in question selection. If it’s 90% to 40%, less so. Then again, if it’s 90% to 80%, say, then I probably will have made the quiz too easy.

So, when should a quiz be hard? Well, rarely, I think. It is necessary, obviously, when a pub quiz has a reputation for being fiendish, of course: when difficulty is its calling card. And, for a corporate event, if we’re told they want it be tricky, well, sure, but even then, I’d use my discretion. I know that I could ask a good set of questions where no team would get more than 50% of them, and most questions would be answered by at least one of the teams…yet they’d still have a better time if I tone it down a bit and they’re getting far more of them right.

Serious quizzers like to be challenged, that’s why they watch shows like ‘University Challenge’ and ‘Only Connect’, but even then, you want to feel you’ve got a chance on the questions. When Paxman’s asked something where no one’s got a clue, it’s a bit of a damp squib.

The truth is, then, perhaps “difficulty” is a bit of a red herring – it’s about suitability of questions, quality of questions, maintaining interest, variation and and about offering a fair challenge.

Do you have a favourite “easy” question?

What’s a Corporate Quiz like?

We write a lot in this blog about Corporate Quizzes and Company Quiz Nights, and I realise it may not always be entirely clear what that is, and in and of itself, it may even be rather a forbidding term. Visions of people in suits being questioned on tax in near silence, perhaps.

But, in truth, our corporate quiz nights come in many different shapes and sizes. We are very happy to fit in to our client’s vision for the evening (and often we help them shape their vision), however formal or informal, however grand or relaxed.

So, what does a corporate quiz look like? Well, frankly, quite often, it looks exactly like a pub quiz. It takes place in a pub, with teams huddled together round tables, relaxing after work. There are pints, there are crisps, there are goujons and little sausages, there are people popping out for a fag: you get the idea.

And is the substance of this quiz much different from a pub quiz? Well, no, not necessarily. We use similar rounds to those we have used with great success in pub quizzes, we employ a mixture of topics and styles. There’ll be more music and visual questions than the standard pub quiz, there may even be a few fancy gadgets you wouldn’t ordinarily see, but generally, nothing immediately, wildly different. Just better.

Of course, sometimes our “corporate quizzes” are a little more corporate, whether they’re in an auditorium within a company’s headquarters, or a large conference room in a smart hotel. Sometimes the dress code is strictly business and there are elegant waiters walking round dispensing fine wines.

And sometimes, our clients may want to make their quizzes more company-specific by asking us to include questions about their company or their line of work. Experience has told us that this is very rarely a good idea, but we will find ways to make it work if needs be.

Why do we tend to persuade clients against including company questions?

– usually, people are trying to get away from work and relax at quiz nights.

– sometimes, questions about the company are good-naturedly booed, which is not great for company morale, I imagine. It can certainly dampen the atmosphere.

– Sometimes, people supply the questions themselves, which has one advantage, that they know the company better than us. But as they are not written by professional quiz writers, they are not going to be of the right quality, nor can we verify their veracity, nor can we judge whether they are at the right difficulty, or whether they are going to be facile for some parts of the company and impossible for others.

– If we write them ourselves, well, it is a rare occasion where we know the subject matter less intimately than the participants, however well we research the questions.

– How can I put this, and we mean this as no insult to anyone’s business, these questions are just usually a little … dull, compared to good pub quiz questions.

– Sometimes, the company questions are more personal and light-hearted, along the lines of “What football team does Geoff support?” “Who once snogged Jimmy from 911”? Though these can be fun, they are often full of errors, a little divisive and can be embarrassing for all concerned.

Once in a blue moon, someone from within a company comes up with some nice neat clever interesting questions related to their company, and we then try to headhunt them …but, honestly, I can only think of about twice in seven years where a quiz I’ve run has been enhanced by company-based questions.

So, to get back to the question, what’s a corporate quiz like? Well, usually, not that corporate. It will be clever, well-judged, well-balanced, classy if that’s what’s asked (without sacrificing how much fun it is), raucous and silly, or indeed anything else if that’s what is right for our client.

 

Training Quiz Masters

Things don’t stand still at QuizQuizQuiz. In the last ten years, our business has grown steadily, and this has led to the need to find and train more Quiz Masters to run our corporate quiz nights just how we like them to be run.

Finding the right people can be a trickier process than you might think. Some pubs may just rotate whichever member of the bar quiz is willing to hold the mic that night, but we are very serious about who can run quizzes for us and how they do it.

Someone who might be a very good quiz master in their own right may not be quite right for us. In fact, we often prefer people who don’t have much experience of running quizzes. Personality isn’t enough on its own, nor is a good quiz brain. We are looking for the right combination of authority, good humour, discipline, calm and technical savvy.

So we take on new quiz masters rarely and we don’t just throw them in at the deep end. Every time we run a company quiz, our good name is at stake, so we don’t want our standard to drop from one quiz to the next.

The process goes a little like this – we meet a new applicant, we get to know them, then we ask them to help at a few corporate quiz nights. Assisting at these events helps a prospective quiz master to watch the process of running a QuizQuizQuiz quiz, how it differs from a usual pub quiz, the full range of duties one is required to carry out. Frankly, this can be a little daunting. Realising you have the responsibility for 150 people’s enjoyment, to be in charge of a room of a 150 baying punters, and that you are doing so in the name of a respected company might be enough to discourage a few.

Usually, the process of just assisting will last a couple of months or more. Then, we’re likely to hold a training day, where we go through all the rounds, run through setting up equipment, talk about common pitfalls, and point the new quiz master to our substantial (internal only) quiz master guide.

At which point, we might deem someone ready to be a quiz master. But even then, it’s not straight in without a paddle. For the first few quizzes, a new quiz master will do nothing but ask the questions prepared by whichever of our most experienced quiz masters is helping them that night.

Then, they will be asked to prepare the rounds and format for the event, selecting questions from our quiz question database.  Then, they will be asked to be in charge of the equipment for the night (e.g. playing music clips, getting sound levels right, running the big screen visuals, etc.), till finally, they will be trusted enough to do so without an experienced quiz master present.

This extensive vetting and training process means that we have built up a really strong team of confident professionals who can provide you with what we think is the best quiz night you could possibly have.

There is a lot more to it than this as well – but we can’t give too much away! Needless to say, though, we put the work to make sure all our quiz events are a good as possible – and a quiz night is usually only as good as its quiz master and the quiz questions.

Corporate Quiz vs Pub Quiz

We’re finally drawing to the end of our busiest quiz season, when our team of quiz masters run quiz night after quiz night – themed quizzes, Christmas party quiz nights, wedding anniversary quizzes, intern quizzes, school quiz evenings – anything people ask for. What we haven’t done much of late is run straight up pub quizzes, and so I’m going to write a little bit about the difference between corporate quiz nights and pub quiz nights.

QuizQuizQuiz has, at different times, run regular quiz nights at five different pubs, most notably for several years at the Fox in Putney and the OSP in Fulham, then later the Normanby, also in Putney. Great fun, halcyon days – we tried to take the same perfectionist approach to our pub quizzes as we do to our company quiz nights, tried to make each one an “event”. Since I first encountered QuizQuizQuiz as a participant in the Fox quiz, I’m well qualified to comment on the excellence of the QQQ pub quiz experience!

But, of course, there are big differences between a pub quiz night and a corporate quiz night. I imagine, of those of you reading who have run or participated in quiz nights, the vast majority have been pub quizzes. So, it is worth going through the main differences between the two.

[There are some corporate quiz events which are absolutely nothing like your standard pub quiz – there’ll be keypads, or particular themed rounds, there’ll be fancy meals, mariarchi bands, huge screens, dressing up contests, there’ll be jellybeans, buzzers, flying monkeys, the lot … however, most of our quiz nights are very deliberately similar to a classic pub quiz – it’s those two I’ll compare, the “standard” pub quiz (no doubt quizmasters up and down the land bristle at their event being described as standard, and rightly so) and the “standard” corporate quiz].

Similarities

1. Players are in teams, usually of between 4 and 8. Teams think of their own names – one of them is called Quiz Team Aguilera

2. Questions are in the sphere of general knowledge – entertainment, music, sport, general stuff

3. Paper and pens are used

4. Rounds are marked and there is a winning team which wins a prize

5. They often (though not always) take place in a pub

6. There is, usually, a demon team who everyone boos and are too good!

7. People eat, drink and have a good time

Differences

1. A corporate quiz is a one-off event, rather than part of a weekly/monthly series. Consequently, there doesn’t have to be the same rapid turnover of questions –  a quiz master can select his/her questions carefully for the specific event.

2. Importantly (for QuizQuizQuiz at least), the above means that we can adapt the quiz as we go along, the questions are not set in stone in the way that they must inevitably be for a pub quiz. [A minor point developing from that is that there can be fewer current affairs questions at a corporate event]

3. Following on from that, at a corporate event, you usually know who is coming beforehand (in terms of numbers/demographic etc) and can prepare accordingly. This is kind of true for a pub quiz, but it is, of course, open to anyone.

4. People all work for the same company, or have some connection in those terms. Friendly rivalries can be developed and played upon.

5. [Perhaps the key difference] At a corporate quiz, not everyone is there of their own volition. Indeed, sometimes they don’t even know there is a quiz coming. They may hate quizzes and it may be a horrible surprise and they may only want to go home. You have to cater for that and give those people an enjoyable evening. Pub quizzes are for people who like quizzes, often people who are very good at quizzes. This is not so much the case at corporate events and you have to tailor the questions accordingly.

6. It is, however relaxed it may or may not be, still a work environment. There are positive and negatives to that.

7. Equally, at least, at a corporate event, there is no one there who is not there for the quiz, who is nattering away in the corner and entirely uninterested in what you’re saying.

8. Again, a very key point. At a corporate quiz night, the crowd could well be much more varied in terms of nationality, understanding of quizzes, range of knowledge. Having said that, in a different way, at certain events (and because everyone works for the same company) it might be much less varied. Basically, the key point here is that there will be more non-British people, and that has a big effect on the questions asked.

9. The drink is often free …

10. A corporate event has a higher all-round budget, so there’ll be more technology available. There is more of an onus, therefore, on professionalism and smoothness and on keeping people focused. Like it or not, it is a little more of a “show”.

11. The prize is usually not money, usually not a “stake” that people have put in [champagne and perhaps a trophy a standard example]. I don’t know exactly what, but I think that makes a bit of a difference to the fervour with which people compete to be the champions.

At different events, there are loads more differences, but what I’ve done is highlight the differences between a pub quiz and a corporate event which is most “similar” to a pub quiz. The main things, from a quiz master’s perspective, I’d say, are being able to select your questions carefully, having flexibility, and the fact that it is not an audience who necessarily enjoy quizzes.

Have any of you had experiences of both? Can a corporate quiz event capture the best qualities of a pub quiz?

What’s the most popular quiz team name?

It won’t surprise anyone to know that here at QuizQuizQuiz we can be a little bit geeky sometimes. Spare moments are rare, but when they arise, we like nothing better than carrying out exhaustive and geeky studies into pressing quizzy issues of the day. Like – what really is the most popular pub quiz team name?

In order to find out, I took a sample  of scoresheets from the 2000+ quizzes that we have run over the years. This sample gave me 7,769 quiz teams which I sorted (including lumping together essentially identical variations on a name – e.g. Quiz Hoy + Sir Quiz Hoy etc.) to discover what names had been used more than any others.

And, so, exclusively for you, I can reveal the 10 Most Popular Quiz Team Names.

In reverse order …

10. (ironically) The Winners (21)

9. Ken Dodd’s Dad’s Dog’s Dead (22)

8. The Magnificent Seven (23)

7. Let’s Get Quizzical (24)

6. Gin’ll Fix It (25)

5. We Thought It Was A Disco (29)

4. Quizzee Rascal (54)

3. Norfolk and Chance (61)

2. Universally Challenged (66)

and, top of the pile, not by as much as I expected, but still going strong, it is

1. QuizTeam Aguilera (68)

Just missing the top 10, DENSA, Fat Kids Always Win at See-Saw, The A-Team, Quiz Akabusi and (dear oh dear), Fact Hunt.

This means that almost 1% of all quiz teams are called QuizTeam Aguilera. More than 3% of quiz teams are called either QuizTeam Aguilera, Universally Challenged, Norfolk and Chance or Quizzee Rascal.

Not too many surprises really – all good solid names, but there’s always room for weirder, wittier or less comprehensible names next to the standard ones, and for new names to appear on the scene. Will the new quiz season see a burst of Sir Quiz Hoys and QuizTeam Ohuruogus?

What are the most common names at your quizzes? And what’s your favourite?

 

Taking the Quiz … (Part 1)

Rumour has it that a working title for the Super Furry Animals’ 1999 album ‘Guerrilla’ was ‘Text Messaging is Destroying The Pub Quiz As We Know It’. So, 12 years on, were the Welsh wizards accurate prophets of doom, or were they putting too little faith in the good nature of the humble pub quiz participant?

Well, a bit of both, in my experience. Do people cheat at quizzes? Yes, they do. Is that cheating now so widespread and so impossible to combat that quizzes now, like Pakistan cricket or the 1990s Tour de France, have lost all sense of reliability and integrity? No, I certainly do not think so.

Of course, the putative album title now seems woefully old-fashioned. Text messaging?! Who texts to cheat at a quiz these days? There are a thousand other far more effective methods. And what are they? Here, I can happily confess that I’m a little ignorant, as I’ve never, not once, no, never, honest guv, cheated at a quiz in my life.

Suffice to say, with Shazipanion, Wikipam, picture-identifying apps and whatever else there is out there, there is no shortage of methods for getting ahead. But the more important question, for me, is, without digging too deep into the philosophical pit, why?

Prizes at pub quizzes and corporate quizzes are rarely life-changing (usually a bottle of wine suffices) – we’re not talking Major Charles Ingram on Who Wants Be a Millionnaire? So why do people risk their good name for a pittance. Well, one thing I will say is that sometimes I think people don’t even realise they’re doing anything wrong. I ran a quiz last week where someone was happily checking the answers to a Picture Round question right in front of me as soon as I handed it out. I stared, his colleague tapped him on the shoulder and shook his head, he looked surprised, then put it away. I know that may sound absurd to hardened quiz goers but a lot of our corporate clients may not have attended a pub quiz before.

Another reason I think people sometimes use their phones to check things is because they don’t want to look stupid – they’re not necessarily trying to win, but they don’t want to be shown up in front of their work colleagues.

And people will cheat if they think everyone else is cheating, unfortunately. I can tell that quite often if there are universally high scores for a picture round.

Why else, in your experience, do people cheat at pub or corporate quizzes, and have you seen any brazen examples?

This is just the first on quite a few posts on cheating (and how to cope with it). It’s a big, and fascinating, topic, which can’t be covered in one post, but I’d be interested to know your initial thoughts.