There’s something satisfying about proving that you know more than the table sitting next to you.
Trivia nights have been one of the most popular bar events for years as a means for bars and restaurants to bring in crowds during the week on slower business days. For some people, these weekly games have become part of their routine. They meet up with their friends every Tuesday – or whichever day you choose to host on – to have a few drinks and compete in trivia at their favorite watering hole.
But hosting a trivia night can involve more work than jumping on the computer and searching Google for a list of questions. A poorly ran trivia night will make customers upset and unlikely to return. The name of the game is to keep customers happy and having fun.
Here’s a quick primer on how to host a trivia night that will keep customers coming back for more.
7 Steps to Hosting Your First Trivia Night
- Scheduling the Event
- Decide on a Host
- Choose a Theme
- Pick a Format
- Set Clear Rules
- Pick Out Prizes
- Advertise Your Trivia Night
1. Scheduling the Event
The first step in hosting your first trivia event is to determine why you’re having a trivia night in the first place.
Consider the following two questions:
- What day or times are typically slow at your bar or restaurant?
- Are there other popular trivia events at other businesses in your area?
Trivia nights are one of the best bar promotion ideas known to increase foot traffic to bars and restaurants and help provide some extra revenue for typically slow times. Determine when your bar could use an added incentive to stop by and then compare those times to when other local establishments host its trivia nights. Once you’ve shortlisted those times, you’re ready to pick a date.
2. Decide on a Trivia Host
Will you take care of all of the details of the event yourself? Or will you consider hiring an outside company?
There are plenty of companies that specialize in hosting trivia nights. They will provide all of the necessities, including questions, sound systems, materials, a host, and everything else needed. All that’s required from you is a suitable venue. Unfortunately, these companies will also come with a price tag that will eat into some of the profits from your trivia night. If you’re willing to put in a little extra work, you can keep that extra money for the business.
If you decide to host yourself, it’s important to have an engaging host. If there’s a particularly outgoing employee, this might be the perfect job for them. Trivia nights can be more than a host asking questions into a microphone. A host that can joke and interact with the contestants will help set the tone for the evening.
3. Choose a Theme
Perhaps the most important step in setting up a trivia night is choosing the theme.
The theme will determine what type of audience your event will attract, the amount of people it will attract, and how successful it will be against competing trivia nights in other bars in our area.
Consider the following questions when choosing a theme:
- What is trendy in your community and pop culture overall
- What other local bars are theming its trivia nights
- What themes match your bars aesthetic
Jump to our trivia theme ideas section in this article to see six of the most fun trivia night theme example to drive patrons to your bar.
4. Pick a Format
The next step in putting together a trivia night is to determine how the game will be run. There are major ways of formatting a trivia night:
The easiest way to host a trivia night is to use the classic pen and paper method. Teams will write their responses on a slip of paper and turn their answers into the host. Once all answers have been submitted, the host will reveal the answer and tally the scores. For this method, it might be a good idea for the host to schedule different rounds and tally up the scores while teams take a break.
Tablet or Smartphone
If you’re looking to be a little more tech-savvy, there are options for tablets and smartphones to use for trivia. The best part of these options is game management. Scores are kept automatically, and contestants can view the leaderboard after each question. Questions can be displayed on TVs and help keeps the host from having to talk over teams that are socializing. Unfortunately, this type of trivia night will require more equipment and cost more than a traditional approach.
5. Set Clear Rules
How much of stickler are you for cell phones? How many players are allowed per teams? Establishing rules early makes sure that all contestants know how to play the game and what might disqualify them.
A few good trivia night rules are:
- No yelling out answers
- Set a clear limit on the number of players per team.
- No looking up information on cell phones. This might be on the honesty policy, but servers can help enforce this also.
- Teams can’t change their answers after submitting a response.
- The host has the final say in all disputes.
It might also be a good idea to schedule a break during the competition to allow teams to use the restroom or grab a drink from the bar. This also gives the host a break.
6. Pick Out Prizes
Sure, some people will want to play trivia because it’s just something to do, but more competitive teams are in it for the prizes.
Luckily, these prizes don’t have to cost a lot. Gift cards to your restaurant will usually be enough for people to want to play. $50 for first place, $25 for second and $10 for third are often good starters. Any merchandise with your restaurant’s name and logo are also good options.
If you’re keeping a running tally week to week, once a month or once a quarter, try upping the value of the prizes. Gift cards in the $100-$500 range or even cash make great options. Keeping a running score will incentivize teams to come back each week so they can rise in the ranks on the overall leaderboard.
7. Advertise Your Event
Most importantly, you need to advertise your trivia night. If this is a new event, you can’t expect people to know when to show up. Spread the word on social media, place flyers around the bar, add table toppers with information, list the event on your bar’s website, and do whatever you can to advertise.
An easy win for promoting your trivia night is to find all the local trivia nights in your area and reach out asking those websites to include your event in their directory.
You can find local trivia event directories by using Google search queries. Just search:
“city” + “trivia nights”
For example, a quick search of “Chicago” + “trivia nights” shows results for dozens of lists of the best trivia nights in the city:
One of those results is a popular Chicago publication and website that curates the best bars, events, concerts, and things to do around town called Do312, a perfect target for a Chicago-based bar to add its trivia night to:
The more people that know you’re hosting a trivia night, the more people will show up ready to play.
1. TV Show and Movies
Pick a TV show that has a cult following, preferably something that has a lot of seasons, so you have a lot of resources for questions.
The Office, Parks and Rec, Friends, The Simpsons, Game of Thrones, etc. are all great TV Shows to build a theme around. Any shows that are trending will also be a big draw. The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, and Rick and Morty might not have the most massive followings. Still, when new seasons or movies based on them are released, it’s a great audience to capture.
2. Music Trivia
Who was the top-performing artist of 1984? Which artist swept the nation with his Achy Breaky Heart in 1992? Quiz your contestants on musical facts to see if contestants remember the music they grew up with.
If musical facts seem too tricky, a round of name that tune is another option. Play 3-5 seconds of a song and have contestants identify the title. Bonus points if they can name the artist and album.
For the final round, play a game to finish the lyrics. Pick a part of the song, chorus or verse, and end a clip right before the line finishes. Have players finish the lyrics and score them based on how many words they got correct.
3. Pop Culture
The folks at Buzzfeed aren’t the only ones that can talk about the lifestyles of the rich and famous. People are always interested in pop culture and what’s going on around the globe. The best part about pop culture trivia is you can get all of your questions from the pages of the entertainment section of your local newspaper.
Sports fanatics are always rambling on and on with statistics. They can name the Heisman Trophy winner in 1982 – Herschel Walker – and who holds the record for most consecutive strikeouts by a pitcher – Tom Seaver. Open up the record books and pick develop a list of questions. Bonus points if you relate the questions to your local sports teams.
Even book lovers like to put down their most recent read to spend a night out – although they might bring a copy in their bag. Find some popular books and make your night center around that series. Harry Potter, Hunger Games, and Lord of the Rings are all excellent series to start with.
6. Get Creative
While hosting a trivia night will draw in new businesses to your bar, it’s a crowded space to enter. Almost every bar and restaurant have some sort of trivia night on rotation. You’ll need to get creative to set your trivia night apart.
Consider local themes that pull questions only locals will know. Think local history, geographic, landmarks, businesses, famous people, and more.
Another creative trivia theme is to host an “adult-themed” night. For example, the Chicago-bar Waterhouse Tavern hosts a weekly “Kinky Trivia” night to stand out from the crowd.
You’re Ready to Host a Trivia Night at Your Bar!
Hosting a trivia night doesn’t have to be complicated and can be a great way to bring in new and returning customers. Your patrons will have a blast, and pretty soon, they’ll be coming back week after week.
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