So as usual, we are sat in the local, nursing our pints while the genial quiz host works his magic and serves out the quiz questions. Our team is Nathan who knows everything there is to know about popular dance culture, violent films of the 1990s, recreational drugs, and anagrams of terms of abuse. Emma specialises in anything fluffy, soap operas and bizarrely Bollywood. Andy who has been sold as knowing everything, but only seems to know everything that the rest of us knew anyway. Richard who specialises in comic books, and spending his teen years in his bedroom. And there's me, mopping up anything else.
It's been a great night and everyone is enjoying themselves. But then unexpectedly disaster strikes. Unexpected to everyone, that is [and here is the shocking bit] - including the quiz host.
And what is it that shatters the pleasure of the evening? Is the building on fire or under attack? Has a fight started by the pool table, or someone misjudged a dart and planted it in the middle of the large plasma tv which takes pride of place on one wall, or taken out One Eyed Sharon's good eye with a ricochet? No such thing - put simply - our quizmaster has not done his homework. Cue balls-up in the quiz proceedings:
"Who was the first - eh, that's not right. Bloody 'ell there's no answer with this question."
Confusion reigns for a couple of minutes, while he shuffles and rifles somewhat embarassed through several sheets of paper, and then decides to plough on.
"Ok, next question: What is the name of Paul McCartney's wife, who has only one leg? Eh, what? He got divorced from her? Aw bloody 'ell. What do you mean he has a new wife? We're having a right week this week. "
Again howls of derision and impatience. A group in the corner who came to play for the first time this week seem highly amused by how unprofessional the quiz is, and I cannot help but wonder if they will be back next week. I can hear circus music playing in my subconscious mind, and see the quiz master with size 22 shoes, braces and a flame red Ronald McDonald wig and nose. Someone pass me a custard pie.
Determined not to be put off the quiz master continues. "Who plays Darth Vader in Star Wars? What do you mean which one? There is only one Darth Vader. Oh, which film? What? What do you mean who plays him physically or provides his voice?"
By now the regulars are getting rowdy and unsettled. There are arguments breaking out all over the room. The quiz master looks and sounds like he would rather be somewhere else. Some of us feel the same. Lynch mob mentality is spreading around the room...
Lessons From the Front Line - Check Your Material Is Complete and Accurate
What can you learn from this ridiculous situation?
Well, for a start you might want to check through your questions BEFORE you present your quiz. As a minimum of preparation you would expect to read through what you are presenting - and especially so if this is not your own finely honed, expertly researched handiwork. If you downloaded your questions from a website then double check what you have presumably paid for just as a precaution. After all, remember the six p's: Proper Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance.... Your quiz should be both complete and accurate. You really only have yourself to blame if your quiz has badly worded questions, is missing petinent facts, or worst of all - the answers!
If you have time you might want to check the answers for accuracy too - it's not enough that they just be present. Whilst obviously over simplifying - stating that the answer to 5 +3 = 10 will get you strung up from the light fittings for being obviously factually inaccurate. Stating that someone starred in a film when they didn't will lose you an arm or a leg in some venues, get the name wrong and you might never be asked back. Reliance on an outdated resource for quiz compiling might mean that your quiz is out of date too, and this could give rise to arguments amongst your quiz teams and disagreements when you come to present the answers. Remember people can divorce as well as marry, can cease to exist, and that something stated as fact, might only be accurate on the day it was initially written. Certainly the answer to "Who was the last man to walk on the moon?" might be considerably different in 100 years time. Normally the rule is that the players should aim to get the answer that the quiz master has on his answer sheet. That is all very well if the answer is beyond dispute, but if the answer is open to interpretation - or worse - argument, expect that you might be open to abuse...
Avoid Ambiguous Questions
Checking through your questions will also allow you an opportunity to spot any ambiguous questions. these are questions where the wording is vague or the answer is by no means certain without further clarification. Your audience will not sit quietly by as you ask a question which could potentially have ten different answers. Remember that there might be multiple people, books or films with the same name. If your question references one of them, make sure that you at least know which one, and make sure you clarify that in your questions.
Being Fore-warned is being Fore-armed.
Have you considered how you will play these and various other scenarios?
To the experienced quiz master it's water off a duck's back - he has seen it all before and knows just exactly how to react - he may be able to pull off a well rehearsed quip, and rally everyone back around before the damage is done and anarchy allowed to reign. Better still, having read through the quiz two days before, he was able to check a couple of facts, fill in the missing answers, and even throw away a couple of questions in favour of his own.
Knowing where the pitfalls lie has allowed him to avoid them altogether.
It can be a war zone out there for the uninitiated, or blatantly clueless. So good luck, and whilst hoping for the best, be sure you have prepared for the worst.... read through your quiz materials, and be prepared for the unexpected.