How to Host a Trivia Night


This fan of MTV's Total Request Live had to get his head shaved after losing a trivia contest.  While the audience certainly dug it, you don't have to be that extreme with your trivia night!
This fan of MTV's Total Request Live had to get his head shaved after losing a trivia contest. While the audience certainly dug it, you don't have to be that extreme with your trivia night!
Evan Agostini/Getty Images

On Wednesday nights in Fayetteville, N.C., groups of people gather at The Kickin' Chicken for Team Trivia -- a chance to hang out with friends, showcase knowledge of random facts, win some Chicken Bucks and even vie for an opportunity to go to the regional tournament in Raleigh. Pretty good entertainment for Hump Day!

Whether in London or Lexington, Sydney or San Francisco, it's easy to find trivia nights (also known as quiz nights) at local bars and restaurants. These events are fun, popular and great for business.

Why's that? Trivia night is more than just spending money on food and drinks. There's the game aspect, which can draw a crowd on an otherwise slow night. And trivia night is a great way to create groups of regulars who will make it a recurring event on their social calendars. No one wants to let down their fellow team members so they're more likely to come back than they would for an individual competition.

If a trivia night is just what your place needs, use these four questions to start making it happen.

  • Who: Who'll be the M.C. and where will you find contestants?
  • What: What format of trivia should you use?
  • When: What night is the best? Choose one that you can make a standing date.
  • How: Should you plan it yourself or use one of the many companies that can create the event for a price?

You can also host a trivia night at a hall or large room as a fundraiser for your organization. Either way, it's good to think about what kinds of themes you can use. Read on for some ideas.

Trivia Theme Night Ideas

Theme nights – where all the questions are on a specific topic -- can change up the normal pace once in a while, or be a recurring night each month. Here are some great examples of trivia themes, categories and questions you can use:

Calling all Sports Fans: Everyone knows some sports fanatics. Some categories include:

  • Famous Stats and People Who Broke Them
  • Olympic Trivia
  • Who Am I?
  • Name that Sport -- what uses a stone, a sheet and a broom?

Music of the Night: This is about all things musical, so even the most devoted groupie may get stumped:

  • Name that Tune
  • Who Am I?
  • Concerts and Live Performances -- you may know every album, but do you know what happened when your favorite band performed in Chicago?
  • Artists and Bands

Celluloid Crazies: Movie buffs can prove themselves in these categories:

  • Award Winners
  • Actors and Actresses
  • Films through the Decades
  • Who (or What) Am I?

Details of the Decade: Are you really an '80s girl? If so, prove it!

  • Events & News
  • Videos & Music
  • Movies & TV
  • Fashions & Fads
  • Who Am I?

Back-to-School: Quiz guests on high school topics like:

  • Geometry -- Who remembers trapezoids and theorems?
  • Civics -- Name the three branches of government
  • English Lit -- All about Shakespeare
  • Drivers Ed -- How do you do a three-point turn?

Once you've nailed down some theme ideas, it's time to fill the house and see who can answer these questions!

Tips for Hosting a Trivia Night

With a new trivia night, you want to shout it from the rooftops. Promote the night in your bar or restaurant's current advertising and on tabletop stands. Encourage the wait staff to spread the word too. Inspire your current customers to come back with friends in return for freebies or "bar bucks." Food and drink specials on the big night can help draw a crowd in too. Now you've got people in the house, let's play trivia!

The Ground Rules: Here are some guidelines to keep in mind.

  • Keep time limits to less than a minute. Play some popular music; when it ends, time's up to answer the question.
  • Teams can write down the answers on a sheet or hold them up on a card. Illegible responses get thrown out. If you're going interactive, answers may be submitted from a device.
  • The MC is judge and jury on final answers, though there may be an appeals channel.
  • Looking up answers on a smartphone's Internet or texting a friend is so not acceptable.

MC's Role: A key part of trivia night success is to have a good host. He or she must have a strong voice, quick wit and the ability to improvise – as well as be able to read those questions and answers without stumbling.

Coming Up With Questions: You can research them yourself using the Internet and quiz books or you can purchase question packets. Whatever works with your budget and your bandwidth is fine.

Show Them the Money: Prizes always encourage people to play and come back again. These may include a free tab for the winners' table that night; restaurant or bar "bucks" to be used at a future date (which encourages repeat players) or a Trivia Cup for the winners to display next round. You can even have vendors donate prizes or offer a larger cash prize at the end of a multi-week tournament.

Related Articles

Sources:

  • 3Street Trivia. "Hosting a Trivia Night – Fact Sheet." (March 25, 2012). http://www.3streetstrivia.com/factSheet.pdf
  • Bars-and-bartending.com. "Hosting a Bar Trivia Night." (March 29, 2012). http://www.bars-and-bartending.com/bar-trivia-night.html
  • Bellis, Mary. "The History of Trivial Pursuit." About.comInventors. (March 30, 2012). http://inventors.about.com/library/inventors/bl_trivia_pursuit.htm
  • Dukes, Brian and McCray, Mike. "Team trivia nights are chance to relax and win some prizes." Fayobserver.com. March 16, 2012. (March 27, 2012). http://fayobserver.com/articles/2012/03/15/1160489
  • The Fred Hollows Foundation. "HOW TO . . . hold a trivia night." (March 25, 2012). http://www.hollows.org/Assets/Files/How_to_Trivia.pdf
  • Quiz Night Central. "Prizes for Team Trivia Night." (March 29, 2012). http://quiznightcentral.com/articles/prizes.html
  • TeamNames.net. "Team Names." (Apri1 1, 2012). http://www.teamnames.net/fantasy/trivia?sort=rating_desc&filter=