Getting Started

Tips to help you get a new pub quiz night started
Here are some tips on getting started if you plan to run a quiz night. Experienced quiz masters may read this information and disagree with some points. Comments and feedback always welcome.

First Tip

You’ve got to have interesting questions that have definitive answers. Questions on flags, rivers, capital cities are boring. These are signs of lazy, unimaginative question writing. Not suggesting that these subjects shouldn’t be used but make them interesting. Dig deeper. If a question writer on any TV quiz program included “What’s the longest river in…” they’d get sacked on the spot. Instead, opt for questions that involve figuring stuff out, educated guesses. The best questions are questions that make your audience think or try and remember information. The kind of questions that – when you announce the answers you can see the look of annoyance on their faces for not getting it.

You’re Only Here To Sell The Beer

Format your quiz with breaks in mind. If the quiz is held in a bar, do not lose sight of the most important factor of all which is allowing your audience the time to regularly get to the bar and order drinks. If you are employed to present a quiz in a pub, essentially you are there to increase sales of drinks. Everything else works around this!

Experiment With Formats

Introduce new rounds and try out different things. For longer established quiz nights, sudden drastic change may not go down well, but don’t get stuck in a rut. Introducing new features and ideas, shows that you are putting the time and effort in to keep things interesting.

Get The Pace Right

Pace your quiz to suit the audience. If you are rushing through things, then drop some rounds. On the other hand – never drag things out. A steady pace with enough time to push bar sales is key.


Buy a decent microphone. What is worse than going to a quiz and not being able to make out what the quiz master is saying? Most (not all) quiz presenters are former DJ’s and know the importance of this. Invest in a decent microphone, look after it and it could last you 30 years or more. (You may go through a few cables in that time). A good all-rounder is the trusted Shure SM 58. Compare prices on this link to Amazon. Avoid cheap wireless radio mics. Don’t turn up with speakers. It’s not a disco you’re doing. It’s not the 90’s! Pay for a technician or electrician to install RCA input plates and wiring for you to feed into the house system. This will provide evenly distributed volume throughout the venue. Bringing your own speakers means you’re too loud at the front and  they can’t hear you at the back.

Background Music

If you are running background music for a quiz night between rounds, consider using radio automation software instead of DJ software. This lets you to preload the music and set breaks between songs allowing you to concentrate on the job at hand – presenting the quiz. The radio automation software that you should try is called PlayIt Live. There is even a jingle cart machine built in for sound effects and intros. A fantastic piece of software that will make your job so much easier.

Entry Fee

No, no, and no again. The quiz should be free to enter. You have a venue with 20 tables occupied. You go round the tables and ask for an entry fee but only 5 take you up and play. By round 2 you will have 5 tables occupied in the venue. The others have left. Give them all a quiz sheet. Give them all a pen. By the end of the night you’ll have 30 tables occupied. If you run a long established quiz that already charges entry, consider altering this to a bonus cash builder game. Entry fees do not attract new teams. Running a “Free to Enter” quiz also looks better on your flyers, posters, chalkboard, Facebook page….

Bonus Game

Always have some sort of bonus game. Some kind of raffle based game such as Play Your Cards Right, Deal or No Deal, Open The Box, Big Prize Question, something. Something that is a separate game from the actual quiz. Teams that begin to realise that they have little chance of winning the quiz will stay. They have bought a raffle ticket for a pound. They may spend another £10/head on drinks but they aren’t going to lose that pound. Not when there is a chance to win a big cash-builder jackpot prize.

Quiz Prize

What should the prize be? Vouchers vs cash? Runners up prizes or winner takes all? Every venue is different. This is variable and should be carefully considered. If you are trying to attract a younger “20 something” clientele, a £25 food voucher won’t have them queuing at the door to get in. Offering cash? Do you finish your quiz early enough to allow that cash to go back in the till? If they have been buying mostly Diet Coke & crisps all night, they will take the money and run. It’s unlikely that the venue will ever recuperate that money. Offering vouchers for food or drink. Consider a clause of “but cannot be spent tonight”. This will ensure that they either come back next week or visit the venue again at some point before the expiry date. An additional clause on the voucher could also state that the prize be spent in one transaction without change or credit. Some larger chains have a gift card system with a card that can be credited with funds. Prizes vary across different venues. £50 voucher or £40 cash is a good benchmark. If you want to run big prizes, concentrate on the Bonus Games to do that. The actual quiz is bedrock to create a platform for the other game/s.