Let’s set the stage: You have a super successful trivia night, people love your questions, drinks are flowing, and Tuesday night sales are feeling more like a weekend. One day, a team shows up and kills it… and continue to do so week after week. They can’t lose! They’re not cheating, they’re just really good at trivia. Should you worry that after a while your regular teams will get frustrated and stop attending? Or that new teams will be turned off? What can you do — it’s not their fault they’re smart! While it probably won’t destroy your night, it can lead to some stress and you may lose a few teams.
Don’t fear — there are ways to combat this so that everyone can be sure to have a good time:
1. Give prizes for lots of different things
One way to make sure that one team doesn't always win? Give everyone more ways to win! It’s the “wait, there’s more!” tactic. At our trivia, we give out three different prizes. Obviously the winning team will get the big prize (cash in our case) but the second place team also wins something small. No need to break the bank because anything really works. In the past, we’ve given out stickers, slap bracelets, a bag of chips, and even a fruitcake during the holidays. It’s the thought that counts, right? And for the teams that aren’t really in contention, we give a round of shots (bartender’s choice) to the second-to-last place team. Not the last place team, though, because we don’t want them throwing the game. All of these little acknowledgements and prizes lets everyone have something to play for, not just the team who keeps winning.
2. Have really, really good questions that teams can discuss
The reason that bar trivia is so popular is because it’s social. While winning is certainly a motivating factor, people are also excited to be hanging out with their friends. Teams want to discuss the questions, argue over them, and try to figure out the answers. A great trivia question will give them that opportunity. A stale, boring question like so many overpriced trivia hosting companies use will just bore your audience. At The Quizmasters, we are most proud of our questions. We craft them each week so that many of them have several ways to get to the answer giving everyone a chance to find their own path. There is nothing sweeter to our ears when we hear a team go “Ohhhhh!” when they finally figure it out. Even if that team doesn’t win, they’ll be proud of their efforts and have a great time. When this magic happens, winning becomes secondary.
3. Lighten it up
This is where the right host is essential. There’s a Goldilocks zone here: you obviously don’t want a host asking questions in a monotone voice turning off the whole bar, but you also don’t want a wannabe comedian producing a cringe-fest every week. Hosts should interact (a little bit) with the crowd and maybe crack a joke or two, but when it’s time to get down to business, they know it’s all about the questions. In our experience, it’s best if the host knows the bar regulars and is part of the community. If teams enjoy being there at the bar and hanging out, it won’t matter to them if there’s only one team that wins all the time.
4. Add a Bonus QuestionWhy not add another way to win? A few years ago we added a bonus, rollover jackpot. This is how it works: Every week the bar ponies up $25 and we randomly call on a team to send up a representative to answer a really hard question. If they get it right, they get the money. If they get it wrong, the $25 carries over to the next week. For an investment that only costs you a few bucks per week you can have a huge prize. We’ve had ours reach over $1,000! Of course, the questions need to be super hard, but fortunately we sell the perfect packet for that. If the pot gets big enough, it won’t matter if there is a team that continuously takes first place every week as everyone will be waiting for their opportunity to win even more cash.
5. Make it a seasonMake your trivia an event. You want teams to feel that FOMO if they don’t show up. One way to do this is to set up your trivia as a season. In our case, we host trivia from September to July. During the season, we keep track of who shows up and who wins. First place gets 4 points, third place 3 points, second place 2 points, and everyone who shows up gets 1 point. On the last trivia night of the season we have an awards ceremony where we give out first, second, and third place trophies. This means at least three teams will have a stake in every trivia night. This may be the single most important thing we have implemented in our trivia events. It ensures that even if one team is always winning, other teams have a trophy to play for. It’s also really fun and brings out friendly competition between teams.
Of course it would be fantastic if every game was close and teams won by the skin of their teeth, but in reality, that’s never the case. Every trivia night has their best team and sometimes they can just wipe the floor with the rest of the bar. It doesn’t matter if you make the questions harder or easier, they will always have that advantage. At the risk of sounding trite, the good news is that what these tips show is that winning really isn’t everything. It’s about having fun.