A Year in Quiz

We’re approaching the end of the busiest quiz season – our quiz masters have been flat out for the last few months running charity quizzes, school quizzes, brand launch quizzes, company quizzes, quiz competitions, university quizzes and Christmas quizzes up and down the country. And then, when it gets to the few days before Christmas, naturally enough … nothing. Not for a while, anyway. It gradually picks up again as January progresses (a good time to get a free date in our diary, if you’re interested) and hits a decent stride again in February.

But late December and early January gives us the breathing space to take stock and look closely at our product. We review all our feedback from the year, we look at all our material, write new questions where needed and collate everything we’ve produced in the previous year into a brand new database.

Every year, we want our quiz masters to run better quizzes than they did last year, so we have to improve our material and train people to use that material as well as possible.

At the start of 2014, in particular, we made a determined effort to improve our quiz nights as much as possible (I keep on resisting the urge to use a phrase like “take it to the next level”, “give us the wow factor”, “dial up the quiz experience to 11” … phew ….). We gently phased out a few old favourite rounds which perhaps belonged to a different era; we redesigned our on screen graphics, we created a lot more video content; we improved our picture rounds; created lots more varied audio content; came up with several new round ideas and determined to actually use them rather than relying on the tried and trusted; we bought a few new little gizmos and gadgets which just make quiz running a little smoother; and we continued working on further technological advances (technology not being my own strong point, I shall elaborate no further out of mild ignorance).

Anyway, it’s been a more exciting year than usual, seeing how all these new quiz night ideas stood up, seeing if we’re bringing a noticeably better quiz than in previous years.

Speaking for myself as a quiz master (rather than as a question writer), it’s been great. My first quiz with all the new material was for 55 teams in a huge conference room in London … and was being filmed … so no pressure. But I instantly saw what a positive response the new stuff was getting. One of the best things has been having a larger range of rounds to choose from. I can go into a quiz confident that I have different styles and lengths of round to suit every occasion, to adapt on the spot if needs be. Countless new questions have rapidly become old favourites.

As we’ve gained more and more repeat clients down the years, it became a challenge ensuring they were getting something fresh in terms of quiz rounds and content every time, but this year, we really haven’t had to worry about that so much. There’s so much new, fun stuff, it would be impossible to do something that was same-old, same-old.

And the good thing is we’re full of ideas to improve our quizzes for next year. There’s a massive bank of new material to incorporate and a few great new round formats to work on promoting from the “lab” to the “field”. Just need a little Christmas break, and then back to it!

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.