"Forward-thinking Charities and fundraisers are starting to welcome trivia nights as part of their fundraising strategy"
- Vern Evoy
- Vern Evoy
Trivia nights have become a major attraction for people in North America, particularly in recent years. The reasons for this trend are clear: trivia nights provide a great source of entertainment, they promote social interaction and team building, they provide a venue for people to show off their mental prowess, and they generate income for businesses and charities that host these events.
Because of the rise in popularity of trivia nights, many businesses have refocussed their energy to include this relatively new feature as part of their business model, particularly in the bar and restaurant industry. Bar owners are finding out how much extra revenue they can generate when they host trivia nights. DJs and event planners are also embracing this activity, and forward-thinking charities and fundraisers are starting to welcome trivia nights as part of their fundraising strategy.
Whether you’re the manager of a little league baseball team trying to raise funds for a road trip, or you are a fundraiser for a charity and are looking for extra ways to generate more income for your cause, trivia nights are the way to go, and it is my goal to help guide you through the process.
In case you are new to the idea of trivia nights, and have yet to experience one firsthand, the first question we’ll answer is: what are trivia nights?
Trivia nights, or pub quizzes as they are often called, come in various shapes and sizes and their degree of difficulty varies from one to the other. However, they all have a common theme; to test the knowledge base of participants in a contest format to see who knows more (or can remember more!). The person, or team, that ends up with the highest score is the winner, reaping bragging rights and subsequent spoils, often in the form of trophies and/or prizes.
Trivia night quizzes have several categories, maybe 6 or 7, with a specified number of questions in each category, perhaps 10. The categories usually vary from quiz to quiz. For example, you may see categories called North American rivers, presidential quotes or NFL quarterbacks in one quiz and in another quiz, you may see questions about African mammals, celebrity couples or literary legends. There are endless categories to choose from. Many trivia night quizzes include an audio and/or picture round to keep things interesting, and may also feature a final trivia question, and a tie breaking question. The quizzes vary in length; anywhere from an hour and a half to 3 hours, depending on the length and flow of the quiz.
If you are considering hosting a trivia fundraiser, and you want to learn about trivia nights, I recommend you attend a local one, or a few different ones for that matter, to get a feel for how it all works. If you think your fundraiser or charity is up for the challenge of putting together a trivia event, then read on to learn how to do just that. You may be asking yourself, do I want to take on this challenge, and if so, what kind of results can I expect?
If you’re like a lot of fundraisers out there, you are always looking for new and innovative ways of achieving your fundraising goals. Trivia nights offer a very cost-effective approach to fundraising, which is one of the reasons why they have become so popular among charities and fundraisers alike; they are relatively cheap to put together, and the returns are excellent. Another bonus is that with each passing event, they tend to build momentum and become more and more popular, which translates into a potential steady stream of revenue for your cause.
If you’ve weighed the pros and cons of having trivia nights, and are leaning towards putting together an event, or multiple events, then the first thing you need to do is create, or purchase, a great trivia night quiz that is sure to entertain and delight your audience.
As mentioned earlier in this blog, you should try to attend one or two trivia nights beforehand to get a feel for what categories and questions work well, and what the audience enjoys. This will help give you an idea of what type of quiz to create, if you are in fact going to create your own quiz. This brings up the next point which is: to buy or not to buy? When considering whether to purchase a quiz, or create your own, ask yourself these questions:
If you are knowledgeable and you enjoy researching and writing, and have some spare time on your hands, then you should try to put together the quiz yourself. You may discover you really enjoy the experience and find it satisfying and rewarding. Should you choose to create your own quiz, I’ve prepared a section in this blog to help you do just that. If you’re like most people, time is in limited supply, and you may want to consider purchasing a ready-made trivia night package. If you do make the decision to purchase a trivia night package, you should make sure the quiz is purchased from a reputable trivia supply company like Quizrunners. For a maximum outlay of $19 (Cheaper if you buy multi-packs), a trivia night package from Quizrunners will get you:
Granted, I am the co-founder of Quizrunners, and clearly, I am biased as to which trivia company I think you should choose. However, I am not in the business of steering anyone in the wrong direction, especially charities and fundraisers. I feel strongly that we have the best quality trivia product on the market today. However, I encourage you to shop around and see if another trivia product may work better for your specific needs.
If you’ve decided to purchase a ready-made trivia night package, then you can skip to the section on finding the right venue for your event. If you’ve decided to embrace the challenge and create your own quiz, then continue reading from here. I’ll go over some pointers which should help you prepare your quiz.
The first thing you should do is decide which type of trivia night format you’d like to adopt for your trivia event, meaning:
When deciding how many categories you’ll need to compile, try to think about how much time you’ll have for your event. I recommend keeping the quiz to between two and three hours. That way, you’ll have enough time for 7 categories of 10 questions per category. If you have less time, you can always do 5 or 7 questions per category or reduce the number of categories. If you have more time, you can always create more categories.
If your venue (discussed later in this blog) has a PA system, then you should consider adding an audio category to your quiz. This will be a welcome addition for your participants, as our experience has shown that people generally love an audio round. An audio round usually consists of 10 clips of either music, or other audio clips such as commercials, actors, musical instruments, movie clips etc. If your venue has monitors you can use during the event, then you can display the pictures from your picture round on the big screen for all your participants to see. You can also present all your questions on the big screen if you use a PowerPoint format for your quiz. Don’t worry though, if your venue doesn’t have monitors, you can still have a picture round, you just won’t be able to show the pictures on the big screen.
As far as deciding whether to have a final question, it’s entirely up to you. The bonus part of having a final question is, the teams that are behind at the end of the quiz can still have a chance at winning, if they wager enough of their points on the final question. A tie breaker question is only used in the event of a tie, so it’s a good idea to have one ready in case this happens during your quiz. When creating the tie breaker question, simply prepare one that nobody can know the exact answer to, such as how many pounds does the Empire State Building weigh? Or, how many grams of sugar went into the worlds largest cupcake? You get the idea.
Once you’ve chosen the format of your quiz, you are ready to start preparing some interesting, thought-provoking categories and questions.
As mentioned earlier, there is a limitless supply of categories you can choose from. To come up with ideas, ask friends and family what types they’d like to see. The internet is a great resource for categories. Feel free to look at the Quizrunner’s categories, which are all visible when looking at the products. If you have an old encyclopedia collection, open the books up at random and see if anything strikes your fancy, or choose the random article feature on Wikipedia. Sometimes it’s a good idea to think of broader category ideas, and then narrow down your focus. For example, you might think history is a good category. You could narrow that down to a few ideas such as WWII history, American history or the history of Europe etc. Or, you might use entertainment as a broader category, then narrow down your focus to a few ideas such as 1990s sitcoms, horror movies or Grammy Award winning singers.
Once you have all your categories figured out, it’s time to start preparing the questions.
When trying to come up with questions, it’s a good idea to write down all the answers first. For example, if 4 syllable words is your category, search that term in google, or your preferred search engine, and when you find an extensive list of 4 syllable words, make a list of the 10 answers you think you could create good questions around. So, your answers could be alligator, constellation, orthopedics, amphibian etc.
Once you have your answers, you can start working your questions around those answers. So, for this category look up alligator on your preferred online information resource such as Wikipedia and start doing some research. Once you learn a few key facts, form a question around those facts. For alligator, your question could be something like “Which creature, whose name stems from the Spanish term for “the lizard”, first appeared during the Paleocene epoch about 66 million years ago”? Do the same thing for constellation and all the other answers.
Once you’ve completed your questions, review them all to ensure they flow well. It is a good practice with trivia writing to do some double and even triple checking to ensure accuracy with your questions and answers. The last thing you want during your trivia night is for someone to start challenging your answers. This could upset the flow of the night and provide an unwanted distraction.
When you are preparing your questions, try to avoid one liners. For example, you could ask, “Who is the Prime Minister of Australia”? This question is rather bland and doesn’t provide much information. Consider adding facts to your questions. For example, you could ask the same question this way: “Which Australian multi-millionaire business man turned politician is the current Prime Minister of Australia”? Another example could be turning the question “who wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls”? Into “Which Nobel Prize winning author, who had a passion for marlin fishing, authored the classic novel For Whom the Bell Tolls”?
Another thing to consider when writing your questions is to make sure you add a mix of questions of varying levels of difficulty. That way, everyone can have a chance to participate and have a good time. You don’t want your quiz to be too difficult - this could lead your participants to become frustrated. You also don’t want it to be too easy or everyone will know the answers. My advice is to try to strike a balance. Most of our writers rate their questions as easy, medium or difficult as they fill in a category. A good rule of thumb is to have 3 or 4 easy questions, 3 or 4 medium questions and 2 or 3 difficult questions in each category. However, if you are writing the quiz for a group of trivia buffs who have expressed that they want to see difficult questions, then by all means comply. Conversely, if you are hosting the quiz for a group of participants who are inexperienced in the ways of trivia, then you should consider creating a higher number of easy questions for the event.
THE FINAL QUESTION AND TIE BREAKER
Once you’ve completed all your categories and questions, you should try to think of a final question to finish off your quiz.
The final question should be a little more difficult than the others, and you may want to include a question with multiple answers such as “Who are the 4 Presidents on Mount Rushmore”? Or, “Which 5 teams are in the MLB East division”? Some formats allow the teams to bet a certain number of their points on the final question, so that the teams with lower scores still have a chance of coming out on top.
Once you’ve completed a good final question, it is important to come up with a tie breaker question in case 2 or more teams finish in a tie. A tie breaker question should be a question that no one will know the exact answer to such as “As the crow flies, how many miles is it from Edinburgh, Scotland to Buenos Aries, Argentina”? Once you have completed these final steps and it looks as if you have a good final draft done, try to run the quiz by at least one other person so you can gauge how it flows, if it’s the right level of difficulty, and if there are any errors to correct or revisions to make. That’s it, you’ve put together your first quiz! Now, it’s time to find a venue for your event.
You may already have a place booked for your event, but if you don’t, you’ll need to start thinking about what kind of venue would be optimal. Some things to consider when thinking of a location are:
If you advertise and promote your event well (discussed later), you should expect a good turnout, especially considering it’s a fundraising event for a good cause. You could always ask people to RSVP, so you’ll know exactly how many people will be attending, and what size of a venue you’ll need. Once you estimate the number of attendees, start looking for sites that can accommodate your participants. Many pub owners will gladly let you use their bar for the event, as it is sure to draw a crowd of hungry and thirsty attendees. However, if you need a bigger space, consider asking if you could use a school gym, a local church, a hall or large conference room. You should visit the venues to see what kind of equipment they already have, and whether you’ll need to bring any of your own.
PREPARING YOUR VENUE
Once you establish the venue, try to make a list of all the things you’ll need to run the trivia event. This includes a PA system, monitors if needed, HDMI cables if you are using a monitor, handouts, the quiz itself, and any incidental items you can think of that will ensure everything goes smoothly. If you have a chance, do a run through of the quiz before the event, and work out any kinks that may exist.
Okay, you’ve prepared your quiz and booked your venue. Now that you have a date and location, you are ready to start promoting and advertising your event.
USE SOCIAL MEDIA
One of the cheapest methods of getting the word out about your event is the use of various forms of social media. This is an easy and effective way to reach a vast audience and relay all the pertinent information about the event. This can include using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat to name a few.
EMAIL LIST AND WEBSITE
If you have an e-mail list, you should fire off an e-mail with all the information about your upcoming event. If you have a web site, you should put a post on the site about it.
If you are having a fundraising event, let me know and I will personally have some posters customized for your event which will include the time and location, as well as your logo and name of your fundraiser. It’ll be free of charge - we’re always happy to help out where we can. Simply send your request, along with the name, logo, date and time of your fundraiser to firstname.lastname@example.org. With the posters, you can use the digital version for your social media advertising and you can also put some posters up in the community.
NEWSPAPERS, RADIO AND CLASSIFIED ADS
Posting a classified ad about your event in a local newspaper can help reach a lot of potential participants. You could also consider calling up the local radio station and having a DJ promote your event by interviewing you or talking about your event on the air.
FRIENDS, RELATIVES AND WORD OF MOUTH
Spread the word about your event by telling as many people as you can. This includes friends, co-workers, relatives and anyone who is willing to listen. You know the old expression – if you tell two friends, and they tell two friends, the word will spread about your event.
You’ve created a great quiz, you have your venue booked, you’ve promoted it well, and you are expecting a good crowd. The whole point is to raise money for your cause, so let’s have a look at some of the different ways you can generate revenue before and during your event. Here they are:
You’ve come a long way. You’ve worked hard, and it’s finally go time! Here are some tips to ensure your event runs smoothly.
TEST THE EQUIPMENT
The first thing you should do when you get to the venue is test all the equipment to ensure everything is working properly and make sure that your questions can be heard by everyone in the room. To do this, have someone stand at the furthest location to make sure they can hear you. Keep in mind that when the room is full, there will be a lot of extra noise, so be prepared to increase the volume if need be. Connect your laptop to the TV if you are using a monitor and/or automated scoring system. Check to make sure everything is working as it should. It’s a good idea to get to the venue before the crowds arrive to get everything set up.
HAND OUT THE ANSWER AND PICTURE ROUND SHEETS TO ALL TEAMS
When everyone is seated, hand out the answer sheets and picture round sheets.
READ OUT THE RULES AND DISPLAY THE CATEGORIES
The first thing you should do is read out the rules and display them if you are using a monitor. Here is a set of rules we use which you can use as a guide, and modify as needed:
Once the rules have been stated, you should display, or read out all the categories, and have everyone pick which category they’d like to have as their double point round (if using this format).
BEGIN THE QUIZ
When you’re ready to start, read out question 1 of category 1. Allow enough time for all the teams to answer. You can usually tell if the teams are ready for the next question when there is a lot of talking. Complete all the questions in the category. At the end of the category, have the teams exchange their answer sheets with a neighboring team. Then display the answers. Once everyone has marked the sheets, have them hand the answer sheets back to their neighboring teams. Each question should be worth 2 points, so that way you have wiggle room to allow one point for partial answers if you wish. Ask each team how many points they received on that around and update the score sheet, or automated scoring system, to reflect the scores. Then start round two and repeat this process until all the categories are completed. Then you are ready for the final question. Reveal the name of the category and ask each team how many points they want to wager, up to a maximum of 20. Then, ask the final question, tally up the scores and give the winner a prize, trophy, or whatever award you’ve chosen to hand out. Be sure to thank everyone for their support; all the sponsors, as well as all the companies and individuals who helped with the event. With any luck, you’ve just raised a lot of money for your cause. Well done!
HOW TO USE TRIVIA NIGHTS AS A STEADY SOURCE OF REVENUE
Once you’ve run one trivia night fundraiser, doing a second and a third one will be so much easier. After all, you’ll have gained some wisdom along the way, and you’ll know exactly what to expect. If you enjoyed the experience, and you raised some funds for your cause, why not make it a regular event? If you do this, you’ll find that your events will begin to attract a large following of trivia night attendees. If you decide to have a regular event, Quizrunners can help. We have trivia night multi packs available for purchase and we also have a subscription service which gives you a brand new, all original quiz every week. For more information about our products and services, visit quizrunners.com.
When I first started writing this blog, my main goal was to provide enough information so that someone with no knowledge of trivia nights could read this article and gain enough knowledge to be able to create a trivia night quiz, find a venue, promote the event and run a smooth, successful, and bountiful fundraiser. I hope I have achieved that goal. If there are any areas I missed, please let me know, so I can update the blog and provide further help to fundraisers in the future. Also, if you run into any issues during the process of organizing your event, I’d love to hear about it, so I could offer solutions if possible. Good luck with your event and if there’s anything you need, Quizrunners is always here to help.
Vern has been playing and hosting trivia nights his entire life, and has written hundreds and hundreds of quizzes. He is well known in the industry as one of the best quiz writers, and his quizzes are used in hundreds of bars, clubs and pubs around the world every week.
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