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Too True?

Just a quick thought.

Can you put too much effort into making sure a question satisfies everyone in its lack of ambiguity?

People want quiz questions to be perfectly clear with perfectly unambiguous answers, and rightly so, but it can sometimes be a little muddier than that.

Just as an example, if you watch Only Connect, you’ll notice that sometimes when teams give an answer Victoria Coren Mitchell asks them to explain why they’ve given their answer, and either accepts or doesn’t. They haven’t given the expected answer, but they have found a valid sequence or connection or at leas their own way to explain it (sometimes more specific or less so than envisaged). It doesn’t happen very often, but OC is perhaps more likely to have that issue than a standard quiz, perhaps, and requires everyone involved to be very much on their toes to keep up with the quick minds of the contestants.

But even in a standard quiz, whether hosted by a quiz master or on the page of a book or magazine or on a website or in an app, a question can be technically sound but people might still find what they think is reasonable cause for alternative answers.

I’m not talking about faulty questions really, or those which are poorly phrased.

There are different cases –

1. a question where the participant has a slightly different understanding of what the terms on the question mean, and by their terms, they have a different answer … an example might be something like the use of World Cup Finals or World Cup in a question – people might misunderstand what those terms mean.

2. a question might be technically correct but actually be too complex, so that most of what is in the question points to a certain answer, but there is a little detail which means that is not the right answer. It might be deemed a little unfair or tricksy – an example might be: “What film did this actor make with this director, in which he played this superhero opposite this actress, in 2002?” … when every detail might point to one answer except the year (there being two such films made in different years).

So, in each case the quiz master can reasonably enough say “No, sorry, your answer is wrong, the question is right and you’ve misunderstood it or not listened closely enough …”

Of course it always ought to be possible to add in plenty of wording and definitions – but where do you stop? Where do you draw the line? Is it worth the effort not to cover any eventuality, not to have to deal with a query?

It would seem that the obvious answer is “Yes” in most cases, but as a question writer, brevity, clarity and the form of the question are also very important, and sometimes you can get bogged down with caveats. So sometimes you take a judgement call to go for brevity and be armed with the facts for clarification. Or sometimes you have to just bite the bullet and bin a question because you can’t narrow it down sensibly enough. The key is to be aware of what you are doing.

It is always helpful for the quiz host (whether at a pub quiz or at a corporate quiz night or on a TV show) to have the facts at hand to put anyone straight if they are a little befuddled. It often actually enhances the host’s authority (as it does, for example, that of Victoria Coren Mitchell on Only Connect) to be able to say e.g. Interesting, but in fact THIS was in THIS COUNTRY, not THAT COUNTRY, so close but no cigar …”

So, for what it’s worth, I think the answer is “be fair and be armed with the facts”.

Reads like a rather good slogan …

 

The best quiz you’ve ever been to

When I first became a quiz master for QuizQuizQuiz, almost ten years ago, I remember Jack, David and Lesley-Anne,  the company’s founders, all telling me independently that even though I’d just started, this, the first quiz that I was going to run might well be the best quiz night that most of the people attending had ever been to.

Not so bold a claim as it might first appear – notwithstanding that it might just be the first quiz night some people at our corporate events had ever been to, it might well have been that many attendees had previously encountered only run-of-the-mill pub quizzes, with 50 lifeless questions rattled through for a tenner, and we could be entirely confident, 10 years ago, that the material, the care, the thought, the variety of our quizzes was at a higher level than most people had ever encountered before.

Can we still be so sure of this? No, probably not. The world of quizzes has moved on (we’d like to think, following our lead). There are many more companies and individuals who claim to run high end quiz nights, there is wider availability and understanding of the kind of technology that can spruce up a quiz. There’s a good chance that plenty of the participants at one our of quiz nights have been to some pretty good quizzes before. Furthermore, so many of our quizzes our for repeat clients, who book us again and again, that an awful lot of people at an awful lot of the quizzes we run have been to a number of marvellous QuizQuizQuiz quizzes before. The quizzes where you’d get a buzz of excitement just from unveiling a fancy image on a screen are few and far between.

Can we really keep on exceeding ourselves? Well, we can try. It’s still important to go into every quiz thinking that it might be/can be the best quiz that some participants have ever been to, that it might stoke a dormant passion for quizzes in someone. When you’ve run several hundred quizzes, you may not find that every quiz you run is the most exciting and brilliant that you yourself have ever been to, you may encounter different obstacles, different crowds, different timings which make it easier or harder to run the ideal quiz, but there’s still a very good chance that if we keep on writing questions with care, innovating with round formats, devising new ways to engage people at every level, creating new audio and visual material, reconsidering the best ways to organise and compere quiz nights, it will be the best quiz lots of people in attendance have ever been to.

Too Easy/Too Hard

I recently recalled the first round of quiz questions that I ever set for QuizQuizQuiz.

It was March 2006, I’d been given a job with the company, I was full of myself and raring to go. I’d already run a couple of quiz nights, which I hadn’t written the questions for. I’d been given some rounds to write for our two weekly pub quizzes (now dormant) in Putney and Hammersmith.

I wrote various questions for various rounds and was assigned the 20 question Jackpot rounds for both quizzes. Excited to see how they went down, I was at the Fox in Putney on Monday night, not as quiz master, but as marker.

I had form with this quiz. In fact, I’d participated in it very successfully for several months – that’s how I got the job. It was a very high standard quiz and the jackpot round was, deliberately, the hardest round. Teams had to score a minimum of 17/20 to have a chance of the money. I knew the target audience, I knew how to pitch it, I thought.

Now, bear in mind, as someone who loved quiz nights, this was my blank slate. They often say about first and second albums that the first is full of the songs the artist has been perfecting their whole life, while the second is something they only have a few stolen months to write. Well, this was my first album, these were my questions, the best I had.

9/20 was the highest score. The quiz had been, as every week, buzzing at the usual expertise of the QuizQuizQuiz quiz master, it was at fever pitch for the culmination, the jackpot round. And my round killed it stone dead. Puzzled looks and shrugs, shouts of “it’s too hard”, “I don’t get it”. I was a little bit crushed.

I’m just looking at the round now on our database. Any gems? A couple, but yes it’s far far too hard, and there are quite a few ambiguous questions – the subject matter is a showy-offy display of my own interests – Scottish indie pop, linguistics, philosophers, 60s athletics and rock music, Medieval history, Art pranksters, ancient Greek, 90s comedy, old radio adverts, Pubs and Beer, African politics, cricket-playing Irish playwrights. I didn’t realise the extent to which my history was not shared history.

I should have, I had no excuse. I’d been to the quiz night for months. But I got it totally wrong.

I still get it wrong occasionally. I ran a corporate quiz with entirely new questions last month and slightly misjudged the first round so that scores ranged from 5 to 9 out of 12 rather than a preferred 7 to 11. I quickly adjusted the difficulty for the rest of the quiz.

Judging the difficulty of quizzes is something anyone can get wrong. People’s gauge is based on what they themselves know and don’t know. To some quiz masters, difficulty may not be that important if they think the questions are interesting enough, but it ought to be.

After 10 years of doing this, we’re now very good at gauging difficulty. We’ve seen 10s of 1000s of questions, we get statistics on how well they’re answered. We’ve turned it into a little bit of science.

It’s still not perfect, as the example of my recent opening quiz round shows. I thought the crowd would know a little more than they did. They were untested questions. But such instances of small misjudgement are pretty rare.

Despite the misadventure of the first round I ever set, I now have a confidence bordering on bullishness in the suitability of my quiz rounds. I have not written a round since where the highest score was less than 50% (well, not without intention and very good reason!)

 

The best thing at a quiz

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.

 

 

Comparing Corporate Quizzes

Corporate quizzes are our main business. I’ve explained before what a “corporate quiz” is, but essentially, most often, it’s like a pub quiz except there are more people in suits i.e. the “corporate” is in the participants, rather than the content.

So, what of those participants? How do they fare? As a QuizQuizQuiz quiz master, I’ve spent a lot of my life dipping into the corporate world, given my name to a lot of receptionists, worn a lot of lanyards, seen a lot of offices and conference suites, met a fair few CEOs and a lot of PAs, have along the way picked up a little bit of what the difference is between various industries which, when I was younger, I would categorise in blanket terms of being “business” or “city”.

We’ve done quizzes for all kinds of professions and non-professions … lawyers and bankers and support workers, doctors and traders and insurers, programmers and advertisers, marketers and teachers, consultants and accountants, journalists and electricians, charity workers, salespeople, teachers, builders and chefs, gamesmakers and engineers, as well as children, parents, volunteers and churchgoers, not to mention all other uncategorisable quizzers.

What can I tell you? Do any stereotypes hold up? Well, I will say that on the occasions we’ve found that teams have been keeping their own (and everyone else’s!) score to the end, vigilant and competitive, they’ll be lawyers or parents of private prep school children. And I will say, that, yes, traders are extremely loud and bawdy and competitive but also that they actually really listen and pay attention, even when it seems like they’re not.

Beyond that gentle generalisation, well, people are people. Sure, one picks up little things about the differences between groups, but quite often that’ll be about the culture within a company, rather than wider professions.

And can I tell you who is best at quizzes? Well, we did once try to find out, just for a laugh. We did a statistical study of the scoresheets for all our quizzes. Now, there is a massive caveat  which really renders the study a little bit worthless, which is that people aren’t getting the same quiz. Indeed the very skill of a QuizQuizQuiz quiz master is to prepare the quiz beforehand and adapt it as it’s happening so that it is neither too easy for the best team nor too hard for the worst. So, actually, across professions, we would hope to discover that average scores are very similar.

I’ve also said that we’re aiming for the highest score at any quiz we run to be no higher than around 90% and for the lowest to be no lower than around 60%, so I suppose we’d hope for the average scores across professions to be somewhere between 70% and 75%, if we were really good at what we do …

Well, what do you know? Our statistical research told us that, across professions, the  highest average score was just over 75% and the lowest, just over 69%. So, we can be pretty happy with it. In fact, nearly all the professions are between 71% and 75%, and as for the only one a bit lower, at 69% (to ensure no embarrassment, I won’t reveal what it is), we actually run a lot of huge events for that profession with anywhere up to 60 teams, and the more teams there are, the harder it can be to make sure the lower teams just there for the jolly are still staying in touch in the scoring charts, so it’s an explicable blip.

What profession was the winner, for interest’s sake? Technology, just ahead of Education and Law. But do take that with a pinch of salt. My own experience tells me a quiz crowd, a company, a profession can always surprise you. If you go in thinking either “they’ll be really good at quizzes, they’re lawyers” or  “let’s keep it pretty basic, they’re …” you may get your quiz level totally wrong. It’s always subtler than that.

Which profession is really the best at quizzes? Well, quiz masters, I hope ….

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!

What’s your job?

People love my job. For the eight years I’ve been a professional quiz question writer and quiz master, when I tell people what I do for a living, I can only think of one occasion when it was meant by mild disinterest … “Oh, right … and moving on …” and on all the other 100s of occasion the response has been something like bafflement … “What? That’s an actual job? I didn’t know that job existed!”, or sheer delight “Oh my god, that’s the best job ever” or fierce interest “I love quizzes! What kind of quizzes? Who for? When? What’s your business model? How did you get into it? Can I have a job?”

This is great, of course. It’s lovely to have a conversation starter, something to talk about. There are times I feel more conversational than others, of course, and I’ve often found myself playing it down, knowing that before I can stop it it I may involved in an intricate and lengthy conversation when I’m more in the mood for chillin’. Many’s the time I’ve gone out and then only spoken about my job for the whole evening. But there are worse things. I generally like talking about it, and I enjoy hearing people’s opinions on it. Lots of people love quizzes, and have interesting things to say about them.

Of course, there are chestnuts I hear over and over again – “Where do you get your questions from?” … LIDL … “You must be great to have on a pub quiz team” … Not really, I’m terrible company … “Do you have a specialist subject?” … Wikipedia, the Golden Years … and, of course, the phrase I love/dread to hear “This’ll make a great quiz question …”. I’m not entirely sure that phrase has ever prefaced something that has actually made a great quiz question, but it does often lead me to an odd, esoteric fact which is too obscure for a mainstream quiz but interesting to me in its own right.

Quizzes being more often an amateur than a professional pursuit, there are lots of people determined to instruct me on both the content and format of my quizzes but also our very business structure. Again, though I’m not sure any of this advice has ever resulted in any concrete change, it is, far more often that not, fun and interesting to hear people’s thoughts ideas.

So if you should ever meet me out and about and you should discover my profession, I shall be delighted to encounter your enthusiasm, I shall certainly listen closely to your ideas, and I will do my best not to raise my eyebrows should I hear you say “This’ll make a great quiz question …”

The First Quiz Night

It’s eight years, almost to the day, since the first QuizQuizQuiz quiz night I helped at. I’d just been told that I’d got the job as the company’s first full time employee (who was not also a founder). Though I’d been interviewed by all the founders, my more important application process was undoubtedly the months I’d been attending the Fox pub quiz in Putney, run by Jack Waley-Cohen, at which I had an ideal opportunity to display my aptitude for the quiz game.

I recall the first quiz night at which I was a quiz assistant: I was helping company director and founder David Brewis in a swish bar near Aldgate, and I took delight in being able to comfortably mark the 13 teams in the short time it took him to read out the answers to each round.

Shortly afterwards, I helped at another event in the grimy upstairs room of a city pub (at QQQ, you get used to working in all kinds of venues) and then I was deemed ready to run my first quiz.

I was not computer illiterate, not quite, but certainly computer ill-adjusted. Though I’d had a bit of time to practice with the technology that we use at our quizzes, it would, sensibly, be a while before I was set free to run a quiz in its entirety – setting up the equipment, playing the music, the video etc.

So I had two helpers for my first quiz – founder-director, Lesley-Anne Brewis, and one of the early investors, James Brilliant (yes, that is his actual name). I was naturally a little nervous, and my nerves weren’t helped by arriving  at the Leadenhall Market (I think it was Leadenhall, it was definitely one of the Markets) nice and early to find that not only was our client not there yet, but the venue wasn’t open, and showed no signs of being so.

After a good few minutes standing outside, everyone necessary (bar staff, quiz helpers and quiz participants) turned up, and we set up, and got ready to go.

I’m not going to pretend it was perfect! I remember just before starting I got it into my head that I would conduct the quiz sitting down, and only Lesley’s frantic whispering to remind me of the first rule of QuizMaster club raised me to my feet.  I also remember, about an hour in, realising that I hadn’t plugged my laptop in and it was rapidly running out of gas. Neither of those are mistakes I have made in the ensuing 8 years.

I don’t remember much else of that night, except that they enjoyed it and clapped at the end, and I was pleased with myself, but still not sure.

By the second one, at a North London school, I was getting into my stride. I had banter, jokes, a bit more fluency, and I knew after that one that I could definitely be good at this.

As is our policy at QuizQuizQuiz, we don’t throw quiz masters in at the deep end. The full process of question selection and multimedia management came gradually over the next few weeks.

The first quiz I was let loose on as a full multimedia extravaganza with no “handholder” was a blazingly hot May day in a hot room at a media company near Euston. It was all a bit random and off-the-cuff, I think I set a speaker up on a pool table and ended up having to start about an hour late because of all sorts of other activities going on.

I think I was too nervous to ask for a glass of water and I did the whole thing, sweating like the whole room, on adrenaline. It went exceptionally well. I got to the allotted finish time and asked if they fancied another round – they shouted their approval. I ended up running three extra rounds and, though it was still early evening the atmosphere was one of drunken delight.

That’s when I realised how much fun it was to be a quiz master, when you and everyone in attendance is of the same mind to have a jolly good time.

At QuizQuizQuiz, we give a guarantee of professionalism and quality. We stand up, we plug our laptops in, and we do all sorts of rather more sophisticated things as we strive to give our absolute best to ensure everyone has a good time. Of course the participating teams play a massive part in that two. That same Euston company taught me that. I was invited back to run the quiz for them a year later, and really looked forward to it.

As I waited for the start of the quiz with that same crowd the next year my host told me “Bit of a strange atmosphere here today, sorry, there’s been a few redundancies …” Aah, ok. Did that affect the atmosphere of the quiz? Yes, of course. Where there’d been delighted shouting the year before, this year there was more restraint and, dare I say it, strain.

I remember raising my game as best I could – I’d improved a lot as a quiz master in the year gone by, and by the end, that atmosphere was great.

Since then, I’ve run 100s of quizzes for different groups in different venues, with different vibes and different purposes. I’ve asked 1000s of questions, I’ve written 10s of 1000s of questions, I’ve even worked out how to use a computer … a bit. This is still my job because I love doing it, as we all do. So, I look back on those first quiz nights, nerves and mistakes and all, with great fondness.

Interactive Quizzes?

Something we often hear from people who’ve just booked a quiz night from us is “We want the quiz to be really interactive”. We take note, but we’re not always entirely sure what this means, as it can mean different things from different people.

Sometimes it turns out that people want there to be lots of use of music and things up on screen, sometimes it means that they want us to use interactive keypads for teams to enter their answers, sometimes it means that they want the quiz master to talk a lot to the teams, but more often than not it simply means that they want the quiz to be lively and fun.

Which, we hope, we can guarantee. The last thing we want is a dry evening where the quiz master sits at a distance, merely reading out questions for individuals to quietly write down their answer in isolation. [Or if the quiz was to be literally un-interactive, the quiz master would read out the questions and answers while everyone just sat back and watched, as they would watch a one-man play]. We want all kinds of interaction, between quiz masters and quiz helpers, between quiz masters and teams, between quiz masters and individuals, between individual team member and, indeed, between different teams (albeit, not answer swapping). That is our idea of an interactive quiz.

Equally, we don’t necessarily go down the “Hello, Team Number 2, what’s your name and where do you come from?” route. We’re not, as such, putting on a show with spectators. We’re running a quiz and we, and our players, overwhelmingly want to get on with it. The banter and the humour, will come naturally over the course of the evening. It’s the questions and the format that matter most, and everything else should be closely related to those. We want to waste as little of your time as possible on non quiz-related matters. The quiz itself is the main vehicle for the interaction our clients are looking for.

Over the years, we’ve developed more and more ways to make our quizzes interactive, with various different lively rounds which require different degrees of noise and movement, of consultation and support, of speed and sometimes of reflection.

So, whatever people mean when they ask us for an interactive quiz, from something very high tech to something very basic, we think we can provide what they need.

The Hosts with the Most

This blog post is about trained and skilled professionals doing a better job than non-professionals. And specifically about trained and skilled professional QuizMasters doing a better job than people who are not professional quiz masters (even though they may be professionals in something that may appear to be similar).

We run around 250 hosted quizzes per year, most of which are run from start to finish by one of the highly trained QuizQuizQuiz QuizMasters. And we do it very well, we think, and our clients think.

There’s a decent-sized minority of those quizzes (10-15 a year or so) which we don’t run. We prepare the quiz, we are in attendance on the night making sure everything runs to schedule, we play the music and the audio clips, we do the marking, but someone else is on the mic. Often this is a celebrity host, sometimes it is someone from within the company who wants to run the quiz themselves.

Sometimes it’s at the lower end of “celebrity” (someone that quite literally nobody at the quiz has heard of or recognises – i.e. a circuit stand-up comedian), sometimes it’s a really impressive and prestigious star of TV. Whoever it is, almost without exception … no, I’m being overly diplomatic … without exception, it’s not as good as if we run it ourselves. [If you think this is being arrogant then do a quick thought experiment: imagine a stand-up comedian doing his stuff. Then imagine him trying to prepare material for someone else to deliver: someone who has never done stand-up comedy before, someone he has never met, and someone with whom he might get a maximum of half an hour to brief before the gig. You get the idea.]

I said “almost” above because there is one gentleman I’ve helped run a quiz, who really does hold the audience in the palm of his hand, but a) he’s working a crowd from an industry within which he’s a respected, beloved figure and b) he’s run the same quiz with us several years in a row, so he knows how our quizzes work, so he doesn’t need the constant instruction and prompting.

And even then, however good he is, I’d still say the quiz would be better if one of our hosts was running it.

I can hear you saying “You gotta lotta noive, kid, thinkin’ you’re some kinda big shot who runs a classier quiz than all doz celebrities” (in the imaginary slang of mid-20th century American gangsters I envisage you’re speaking). But don’t get me wrong, I don’t think there’s anything else in the world I’d be better at than these esteemed hosts except running quizzes (and specifically QuizQuizQuiz quiz nights). But, these, yes I do. Because this is what I do, and what my professional QuizMaster colleagues do, often several times a week.

If a client books us, they hopefully realise they’re booking the whole package, they’re booking us because they know about the quality of our quizzes and the way our quizzes work. It’s not just reading out questions, it’s an awful lot more. It’s choosing the questions, adapting the questions, pacing the quiz, adapting the pacing of the quiz, playing the music, getting the sound right, judging the mood, making last minute adjustments, it’s being quick, efficient and thoroughly well-informed and confident in the material. [again, think back to the comedian analogy…you’ve got to believe in and understand your material to be able to sell it to the crowd]

Often, a client who has their own host in mind is surprised when we inform them that will mean a significant rise in the price we charge (not to mention the additional cost of paying a separate host). Surely it’s less work for us? On the contrary, it’s significantly more work for us. More work preparing the quiz in advance, making sure the questions make sense to the quiz master, providing instructions to them, dealing with any feedback, giving them a script for round introductions, going through the quiz with them before the event, whispering into their ear regularly, reminding them of instructions they’ve forgotten to give, little asides which will make a question work better. Also the quiz usually still goes out under our brand name. In a way the additional costs also compensate us for the reality that the quiz will not be as good as a QuizQuizQuiz quiz should be.

I get way more nervous if I’m helping someone run a quiz than if I’m running it myself. For the latter, I turn up, do my job, and I’m in control. If I make a mistake, I can make a joke of it whilst still retaining complete control. I know how to deal with every eventuality.

So much more can go wrong if someone outside our company is running the quiz, and it’s our reputation that suffers.

How many ways is the quiz better if we run it ourselves? Too many to list. Here are a few. It’s adaptable, in terms of subject matter, rounds and difficulty levels. Every question is understood and treated with enthusiasm and never tossed away as if it is doesn’t matter. Answers can be given out with maximum effect: if there’s a reaction to be had, we will get it. There isn’t someone whispering in the host’s ear all night. There are no awkward silences. Every opportunity to inject energy, entertainment and fun into the quiz can and will be taken. The QuizMaster will not start flagging after the first hour (there aren’t many celebs or stand-up comedian who are used to performing at full energy for 2-3 hours single-handedly – it takes a lot of practice and training to be able to keep it up for that long, as it were) Need I go on?

Like I say, this is a notable minority of our quizzes, and we always make it work, and make it good, and often the guest hosts are really good, engaging, smart, adaptable and charismatic. It’s often a real pleasure to see them getting the hang of how to make a quiz work really well, and gaining confidence in the whole thing as the evening progresses.

But there’s not one quiz which any of our quiz “hand-holders” leaves and doesn’t think “I wish I’d run that. It would have been much better.” And since we are obsessed about running truly outstanding high quality quiz nights, this makes us a little bit sad from time-to-time – sad for our clients who have made a decision (for one reason or another) that means they will not have the best possible quiz night.