On Hosting a Pub Quiz: Part II

Part 2 of an ongoing series by Deven Deshpande, a seasoned quiz master with Thinq2Win.

Every great pub quiz consists of three acts. The first part is called The Pledge - you can read about it here.

In this post we'll focus on the second act - The Turn or Points to remember During the Quiz! Here you take something ordinary and convert it into something extraordinary.
This is the real deal.

Points to remember During the Quiz:

It's almost 8 PM, you are sitting at a table in the pub, you have gone through the set, you see the audience trickling in, and the quiz will commence anytime now. 

At this juncture, just take a note of who is sitting where. Assess the demographics of the audience. If there's a large table with a group of youngsters - that's probably going to be your table to banter with. If there's a lone wolf who is there specifically for the quiz - s/he will be answering the toughies from your set. So on and so forth. Essentially, this is similar to a batsman taking guard while analyzing the field set by the opposition. You already need to plan your strokes. More importantly, which shots NOT to play!

Announcements & Rules - Once the mic is in your hand (ensure that you have done a thorough mic check) and the music stops, the patrons will be wondering what happened; since quite a few of them may not have attended a pub-quiz before. Your job is to enlighten and prime them about the gig that is going to continue for the next 30 odd mins. To ensure a smooth transition for someone who is unaware as to what a pub-quiz is about, start by making proper announcements and in proper order. First, ensure that you are audible and visible to all the audience members. Post that, you can talk about the quiz and give a quick snapshot of what's going to happen. This will quench most of the queries of those perplexed faces.

While announcing the rules it is imperative to give it a positive spin to make it seem less strict and exam-like (something similar to Paul Cohen's theory of Integrating Smaller Losses with Larger Gains).
Some Examples:

1) ..Read my lips, this is the most important part: for every correct answer, you win a beer! However, there are a couple of rules...
2) Rule number 1: You do not talk about this pub quiz! Just kidding..here are the actual rules of the game...
3) Rule 1: No Googling
   Rule 2: No shouting out the answer, raise your hands
  Rule 3: Have a LOT of fun!

Diction, Narration, and Pronunciations - As mentioned in part uno, your voice is going to be your main weapon. Narrating the questions in an interesting manner with appropriate voice modulations is going to be key. You have to be excited about being there and that should show in the narration. You will have to get all the pronunciations spot on. For this, check pronunciations on YouTube for the specific words/ terms that seem tongue twisters. If an audience member corrects your pronunciation, it can be really embarrassing! For vernacular/ non-English words, you can begin by saying - Pardon my French etc.

Banter and Engagement - If narration/ diction/ pronunciations were hygiene factors, your banter and ability to engage the audience are going to be the motivating factors for the audience. These are the embellishments and the toppings to make your performance more attractive. For banter, you can ask questions like What's your name?, Have you been to a pub-quiz before?, What do you do apart from answering questions on the POTUS!?, or Before we check this answer on football, what club do you support? etc.

One important point is to note with whom you should have the banter. Now that is something one needs to figure out as per the ground conditions. Will that person be okay with leg-pulling and jokes? It is completely dependent on the host's discretion and sound judgement.
For engaging the audience, have a mind-map of who sits where. When you remember the names of people, they feel good and included. One more way to engage is to share some interesting trivia bits post the question. 

"Megadeth is correct! BTW, did you know Dave Mustaine was earlier a part of Metallica!?"

Choose your side - I always feel any quizmaster, especially a pub quiz host, is not there to examine the knowledge of the audience or mock them saying 'Haha! you didn't even know this?' No. S/he is actually a guide who ensures the pilgrims are on track by showing them the path to visit the beautiful places of Holy Trivialand! Remember, you are on the side of the audience and they are the centre-of-attraction that night. You just need to guide them to the answers. For this, repeat the questions if it seems to stump everyone at the first go. During this iteration, stress and underscore the significant parts. If there are still no takers, give a hint which isn't a giveaway. 

Coaxing out the answer is a skill and every host has his/her unique style. I can tell you from experience that when someone who is not participating in the quiz at all gets an answer correct after you push his/her tentative guess, the expressions are priceless!
One more point that needs to be stressed is being equitable and fair in the distribution of questions. The regulars/ hardcore quizzers/ pub-quiz fans will always have their hands up. But you'll need to ensure that person who is on the periphery is feeling accommodated and included.


Energy - You need to orchestrate the whole gig. You can't be seen low on energy, you can't be seen dragging yourself, and you can't be seen disinterested. You need to run around and your movement needs to be swift with a spring in your step. Adding colour to the performance is primarily your responsibility. And once you emit that kind of a vibe, the audience, more often than not, reciprocates. However, if you seem careless/ casual about this, the crowd wouldn't pay heed at all. Try out gimmicks or plant some jokes or come up with spontaneous quips to keep their eyeballs on you. While keeping the energy levels high, check that your speed and volume levels are set at the correct notch. Not too fast, not too slow and not too high and not too low, respectively! Just apt.

Closing a question - Every question needs an appropriate closure. Once it has been answered, ask the rest of the people to applaud (especially, if it's a slightly tougher question). But remember, don't overdo it. Accept slight variations of the answer. Don't be too pedantic or harsh. Explain the answer to the rest of the audience as well.
Warm them to the next question or round two. This way they know what's coming their way.

Control - Control the Controllables. Else, the CON is that you will seem TROLLABLE!
Jokes apart, you need to call the shots during the quiz. Which table to choose, if an answer is correct or not, which question to ask next etc. Use your common sense and ensure the gig proceeds under your watchful eye. If someone is trying to sabotage your gig, nip that attempt in the bud. Do not let someone walk over your quiz. And while doing all of this, you need to do it with aplomb! 

Well, that's that for part two! 

Read part three, The Prestige, here.

Till then, have a great outing and a kickass quiz! 

Feel like you want to give hosting a chance, or know someone who can? Send them to apply here.