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Tips For Starting and Hosting a Pub Quiz



Finding a Location


When thinking of pub quizzes, most people think of bars. While a bar can be a great setting for a quiz, don’t limit yourself to only considering local drinking establishments. Restaurants are often good places to consider—they serve not only drinks, but food as well, meaning the owners will have a greater chance to profit from the customers you will bring them. If you know someone who owns or manages a bar or restaurant, start there; if not, prepare a “Letter of Introduction” explaining what a pub quiz is and how it will bring customers to the location (it might also be a good idea to have business cards printed, as well). Offer to start a quiz during a day of the week when the bar or restaurant struggles for customers (usually Sunday-Thursday). We have started quizzes at many different locations, ranging from an Italian restaurant and pizzerias, to microbreweries and wine bars, so be flexible and throw out a wide net.


You can also offer the game for fundraising opportunities—charge the group a flat fee, or charge per-player. The group sponsoring the event can charge players or ask for donations. Once established, you can offer “Private Parties” in which people hire you to come to their house (or another location) to present a game just for them and their friends.


Determining What to Charge


This can be a tricky question. Obviously, you should be paid for your work. If a free meal or a few pints of beer work for you, make that your request; on the other hand, if you’d like a cash payment, you may need to do a little negotiating. For weekly games we often start by charging $75 a game for the first month, $100/game for the second month, and $125/game for the third month and thereafter. You may want to adjust this formula depending upon the number of players your game brings in each week or month (or upon the realities of the local economy). You can also negotiate bonuses based on the number of players (i.e., a $25 bonus if you break 50, 75, or 100 players, etc.). We’ve heard of quiz hosts who ask for a payment based on a percentage of the sales for that night, but this can be very tricky to do; if you know—and trust—the owner/manager, this method may work for you. Just bear in mind that your pay can vary drastically from week to week.


Advertising the Game


Once you've arranged a location and decided on a date and time, make sure to advertise the event. There are many different and inexpensive ways to advertise:

  • Create quarter-page fliers—these can be kept on the counter of the bar or restaurant, handed out to customers, given to customers with their bill, attached to the menu, or placed under car windshield wipers in the parking lot (check local regulations to make sure this last one is okay). You can include, with location approval, a “10% discount for first time players with this ad” announcement on the flier.

  • Create full-page fliers to place at the location and at other local advertising spots (coffee shops often have bulletin boards, as do supermarkets and other locations).

  • Contact local newspapers/magazines to see if they have free “local events” calendars.

  • Many communities have free local events calendars online.

  • Create a social media page for the game, and then invite your friends and players to “like” the page. Use the page to send out reminders of game nights and locations. If you use themed games remind players of the theme for the coming game. We have used our FaceBook page to post a ridiculously hard question in advance that the players can then research ahead of time and answer the night of the quiz (kind of a “bonus” for those players who like and check our FaceBook page). 

  • If the location has their own social media presence or website, make sure they post information about Trivia Night.


Writing the Questions


The key to running a successful pub quiz is asking questions week after week that your audience will enjoy pondering and answering. Knowing your audience—and adjusting your questions to fit that audience—is an integral part of creating a long running, successful game. When writing general knowledge questions, we try to keep the following guidelines in mind:


  • Questions should appeal to a wide range of players: Male and female, young and old, TV watchers, movie lovers, radio listeners, history buffs, foodies, web surfers, gamers…the list will evolve, depending on the location and clientele.

  • Questions should provoke thought and discussion among players: A good trivia game gets the players talking. To do this you need to ask questions that will encourage conversation. Try to avoid asking too many “you simply know it or you don’t” type questions.

  • Questions should be neither too hard nor too easy: No one likes feeling stupid while playing trivia. On the other hand, if the game is too easy, people won't come back, either. So, try to find the sweet spot in the middle with some easy questions and some hard questions. The sweet spot can take a while to find. When in doubt, we have found that it is better to err on the side of being too easy rather than too hard.

  • Questions should be timely: Players like to have their knowledge of current events rewarded. And don’t be afraid to throw in a few questions about local places, people, or events.


As the game progresses, ask the players themselves for topics/categories they would like to hear. To the best of your ability (and sensibility), ask questions to match. In order to see what we're talking about, click here to see our Sample Questions.


Presenting the Game


You’ve found your place, advertised the game, and compiled your questions; now it’s time to host the game. Be sure to arrive with plenty of time to pass out answer sheets (and pens, if you plan to provide them). A few notes about presenting the game:


  • Your Questions: You can print out the questions and have them on a clipboard, have the questions on your tablet or phone, or flash the written questions on a screen (if the location has screens visible to all parts of the location, and you have the technical know-how to make this happen). We suggest that you always have two copies of the questions: one WITH the answers (to use while marking the answer sheets), and one WITHOUT the answers (to use while calling out questions). This strategy allow you to show players the exact wording/spelling of questions without having to cover up answers.

  • Answer Sheets: Print more than you think you will need (it is embarrassing to run out). If your answer sheet is two pages long, print the pages back-to-back.

  • Announce the Rules: Be sure to announce the rules clearly. The two most important rules are no cellphones and no shouting out answers. The rules we use are printed at the top of our answer sheets (click here).

  • Use of Media: If you are going to use media (i.e., flash the question on a monitor or play music), be sure to double and triple-check that everything works! It is very embarrassing to have to pause the game for technical problems…believe us, we know.

  • Call Out Questions Twice: It is always a good idea to call out each question at least two times. If you are announcing questions without a microphone, be sure to rotate direction so that you are heard throughout the bar or restaurant.

  • Stress the “Answer” Part of the Question: Stress exactly what you are looking for in the answer. For example, if the question is about a city in Europe, stress the answer you are looking for by saying: “Which European city…which European city…is nicknamed the Eternal City.”

  • Be Personable: Walk around the location on a regular basis. Answer questions the players may have about the questions you’ve asked. When we find that all teams are struggling with a particular question, we either clarify the question for everyone, or give a hint to everyone. Being personable will also make the game more fun for the players.

  • Pacing: When it comes to how long a game should last, we like to think in terms of a motion picture: 90-120 minutes, from the first question to the announcing of winners. You don’t want too much time in between questions; nor do you want the questions to come so fast that the players can’t keep up. As a rule of thumb, try to ask a new question every two minutes, or so.

  • Marking the Answer Sheets: We suggest that you mark the answer sheets yourself—having the players mark their own, or having teams pass them around to “grade” each other's, can lead to problems and arguments that you don’t want to have. After asking the last question, announce that the teams have five minutes to turn in their answer sheets (some will take a few more minutes—use your best judgment as to when you stop by their table to retrieve their sheet). It's also a good idea to keep your own cellphone (or web-enabled tablet) handy to check online if you think you may have a bad question (one with a wrong answer).

  • Announcing the Results: Before announcing the winners, announce the correct answer to each question. Throw in some of the funny incorrect answers teams came up with—a laughing group of players is a happy group of players. Announce the score for each team, starting with the lowest and making your way to the highest. We like to have a fake team (a team name we have made up) finish last each week to make sure that none of the real teams have to come in last.




Prizes can vary widely and should be determined in coordination with the bar/restaurant management. We have hosted games with no prizes, but find that players like the idea of receiving something for their efforts, no matter how small. This will probably get them to return to the next trivia game, too. A few suggestions:


  • Food or Drink: Winners could receive a round of drinks, an appetizer, a dessert, or an entrée.

  • Percentages: Winners could receive a percentage off of their tab (e.g., 30% for first, 20% for second, and 10% for third). The discount could be applied that night, or be in the form of a certificate they can use the next trivia night.

  • Discounts: Players could receive a cash discount on their tab (e.g., $15 for first, $10 for second, and $5 for third).

  • Clothing: Does the bar or restaurant have T-Shirts, glasses, or other "swag" they can give away as prizes?

  • Monthly Prizes: Offering a monthly prize to the team that has the highest cumulative points for the month will also lead to repeat customers and more excitement.

  • Photos: Take a picture of the winning team and place it on your FaceBook page (or on the webpage of the bar/restaurant).








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