It is believed that there are currently more than 25,000 pub quizzes held in the United Kingdom EVERY week. First developed in the 1970s, the concept was quickly adopted and has become an institution that is synonymous in the humble British pub almost as much as a Sunday roast. For some, pub quizzes are just an event to help pacify one's social needs, an opportunity to mix and mingle with like-minded friends, family or colleagues, to share a few beverages over and a cause for a bit of light-hearted banter. Quizzes can be used for fund raising and have been used to good affect by many charities raising thousands of pounds for good causes. On the flip-side, there are many who take the pub quiz seriously, liking it somewhat to a sporting occasion where big prizes compete in tandem with ego and pride.
As a former 'Quiz Master' of a number of successful pub quizzes back in the 1990s, and a researcher who helped with a few charity quizzes in the early-to-mid 2000s, I consider myself a bit of an expert when it comes to organising and running a pub quiz. From experience I can tell you it's not easy work putting together a quiz, but with a bit of planning, it is a worthwhile experience, and one, if done well, will be rewarding and appreciated by those taking part.
To Begin with...
The first and most important ingredient to organising a successful pub quiz is finding a suitable location (i.e. a pub) which, back in the 90s, wasn't too difficult as there was a pub on nearly every corner in town centres; not so in 2016. A whole multitude of factors over the past ten-to-fifteen years has seen a sharp increase in the number of public bars closing down, but there's still a good many left. You need to pick a pub with a large lounge or bar area with enough space to seat the number of 'players' taking part in your quiz. Before arranging, it is prudent to discuss and plan the event with the bar manager's agreement; sometimes they lay on a free buffet or donate some prizes (at one of mine the bar manager gave me a dozen T-shirts to give away!). Hopefully they will have a PA system you can use, but if not, arrange to hire some equipment.
All you really need is a microphone and a speaker with enough volume so that everyone can hear you. You don't want to have to spend the entire night shouting the questions from one end of a room to the other!
With the venue set, and the equipment in place, the next part is setting the quiz. This is the 'fun' part, and also the hard part. Know your audience, and set the quiz accordingly. If you are setting a quiz for a collective of MENSA members, you want to pick questions that are likely going to challenge them. On the other hand, you're going to alienate a lot of people if you set those same questions for a group from ordinary Jo-public. Also, bear in mind what time your quiz is going to start, and how long you plan to run it. I did a quiz once which started around 8:00 pm. With a break in the middle, and time to mark the answers, the quiz didn't finish to nearly 11:00 pm. By this time pretty much everybody (myself included) had had enough.
Something else to think about. You're setting it in a pub... people are going to offer to buy you a drink or two. Stick to J2Os or Coca Cola. After five pints of beer as a Quiz Master, your questions are not going to make a lot of sense (see Smithy in the Gavin & Stacey episode with the pub quiz)... or in some cases you'll be happily reeling out those answers freely rendering the quiz null and void.
Setting the Quiz
So, where to start? Well, when I was the 'go-to' guy for putting together a quiz, the internet had barely started and Wikipedia hadn't even been invented yet. I had to resort to books, and I found a good many quiz books specifically written for the pub quiz, and a number of reference books that were useful (The Guinness Book of Records and Encyclopaedia Britannica). But now, with the internet so easily accessible by everyone, finding facts and information is as simple as typing in: Questions for a pub quiz, in Google (which produces 1,900,000 hits)... but be careful and check out the facts. The internet is a great source of information, but as it's not regulated, there's a lot of pure crap on there... some things are just wrong or incorrect. Be warned... there's nothing worse than being challenged by some smart-Alec when delivering the results... it's happened to me, and although it turns out I WAS right, the whole episode can put a dampener on the night.
One of the more popular segments of my quizzes was one which was painstaking and very time consuming to put together: Sound: GUESS THE FILM/ACTOR. To put this together, I would trawl through a stack of videos and record a 20 - 30 second sound byte of a scene, which the audience would need to guess the name of the film and the actor speaking the part, just by hearing it. I'd set ten pieces in total. Of course, to include this you need a suitable PA system...
Another section well received was: GUESS THE SONG. Ten second samples of songs would be played over the PA where players were required to guess the Artist and the song title.
To make it interesting and fair for everyone, I would set a variety of questions across a number of categories, the most popular being: General Knowledge, Sport, Famous People, Movies, Music and Places. As well as asking questions, I used visuals. Question sheets could have photos of famous people included, with the players being required to guess who they were.
When setting the quiz, you should already have decided what the prizes are going to be. Cash is the best, and easiest, prize to award the winners. I always provided a prize to the first, second and third placed winners. As a bit of fun, I used to give a wooden spoon to the bottom placed losers or some such useless prize (a block of lard!). Anyway, once you know how much the winners are going to win, you can set the entrance fee for the Quiz. Anything between £5 and £10 a team (with teams of no more than five or six participants). I would take admission fees (non-refundable) prior to the event... that way you guarantee your prize money and don't need to hope that everyone turns up on the night.
Remember, unless you are setting Pub Quizzes professionally in a league, or something, keep in mind that its main purpose should be just for a bit of fun and a little socialising. As Quiz Master and host, you will be exhausted by the end of the quiz, and you'll likely have lost your voice.
For medicinal purposes, you can now have a couple of beers... and take credit from those who have a mind to congratulate you on a job well done.
Want some question ideas for your pub quiz? Buy "The Book of Alternative Records" for some interesting facts, or visit the website: www.alternativerecords.co.uk