A quiz night can just be (and often is) 10/20/30/40/50 fairly random general questions asked in succession. That can make for a great quiz. There doesn’t have to be some overarching concept, there don’t have to be different rounds. Very often, if a quiz is split into rounds, it’ll be, say, 6 rounds of 10 subjects eg Geography, Entertainment, Sport, History, Music, General Knowledge, and again, that can make for a great quiz.
That’s usually not how it works on TV, of course. There have been a few overwhelming simple formats for TV shows (simpler even than 15-to-1) but generally, TV executives/audience want something devious/exciting/clever to hook onto, something that makes the quiz more than just a quiz, and more of a show.
Perhaps led by this, real life quiz nights have become more imaginative. No one wants to drown the sanctity of a fine, solid quiz question in “concept”, but we at QuizQuizQuiz, and numerous other folk who take the business of running quizzes seriously, have tried to find various ways to make the quizzes we run as fun/exciting/interactive/engaging (pick your buzzword!) as possible.
Because I’m a geek (though I pretend not to be) I recently passed my mind over all the quiz nights I’ve ever run for QuizQuizQuiz to see how many distinct round formats there had been (not even just rounds with different names but with the same basic idea). The answer is almost 50, and the funny thing is only about 5 of those are defined by a basic subject matter.
One round that has featured in almost every quiz I’ve ever run is “Music” – no tricks, nothing clever, it’s a music round, mainly involving “Name the artist” clips and a few other things, then there’s “Sport” but these days I include a full Sport round in barely 1 in 5 quizzes. Apart from that, it’s very rare to have any kind of subject-based round – sometimes our client has asked us to do one specially and we’ve obliged, but on the whole, apart from Sport and Music, our rounds are essentially mixed subject, but held together by an idea. (Indeed, even the sport and music rounds can be mixed subject – just with a sport/music theme to them).
So, as a quiz master and question writer, I’m not just thinking about questions, I’m trying to think of round ideas, round ideas that mean a QuizQuizQuiz quiz night incorporates the full armoury of tricks and treats at our disposal, that no one feels left out, that different parts of the brain are utilised, that people are moving, laughing, listening, talking, that the quiz is “interactive” (whatever that means), challenging, varied and fair.
The ideas for those 40-odd rounds have come from various places – sometimes they’re pretty self-explanatory and floating around the quiz ether, sometimes they’re forced upon us by circumstances, sometimes it’s about thinking of a good way to use a new piece of technology. Some round ideas have worked better than others – nothing should be too complicated, nothing too long or too short, rounds should allow variety and hopefully make good use of video and audio clips and a few other tricks that we keep up our sleeves.
The important thing is that our quiz nights have not stayed the same since we began over a decade ago. Sure, some ideas last, and some round ideas have been used regularly by all our quiz masters over a long period of time, but we’re always trying to mix it up. The average format of a quiz I run has changed significantly in the last year, let alone in the last five years.
No matter what the rounds are, one thing that always drives the format of an evening is that we do everything we can to ensure (even guarantee!) that they come with quality questions and plenty of fun.