How To Host Online Trivia Like A Pro

Hosting online trivia can replace some of the social life that COVID-19 has stolen. We have tips and tricks to make it run smoothly

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2020 hasn’t been kind to those of us who enjoy a busy social life, unless you’re one of the lucky few who successfully moved their social life online. No matter how long the COVID-19 pandemic lasts, it’s no reason to lose touch with your friends and family. 

While the internet was invented primarily to make goPuff possible, a secondary reason was to allow a pandemic-stricken society to engage in online trivia and Zoom happy hours. Go crazy and combine the two: you can still argue about who the tallest president was (Lincoln) while sipping quarantinis. If you are not hooked on online trivia yet, it should definitely be on your bucket list. It lets you gather a pretty large group of people without it getting awkward because you all have an activity.

Fair warning: a successful virtual trivia event requires some planning. But it will be worth it when your friends are kicking themselves for not guessing Paul McCartney’s middle name. (Paul. His full name is James Paul McCartney.) We’ve come up with some simple steps that will help make your first online trivia as smooth and fun as possible. Let’s get planning!

1. Get the gang interested

First and foremost, you’ll need your friends, family members, neighbors or colleagues to support this endeavor. It won’t be hard. At this point, we bet they’re willing to try anything new (and legal). Ideally, you would have at least 2 teams. It’s good to have a mix of different ages, professions and backgrounds on each team to make sure everyone gets their 20 seconds of glory. To heat things up, put the most competitive people on different teams.  

Bribe one of your friends with beer or ice cream to do scoring, or be responsible for the tech side of things. That role can also be assigned to your spouse, sibling or roommate. This will make the trivia game faster and let you focus on being the star host you know you can be.

2. Select a theme (optional) 

If your friends are wine connoisseurs or avid punk music admirers, the theme will be obvious. If you’re entertaining a very eclectic crowd—some coworkers, some elderly relatives, a weird neighbor you happened to invite while waiting for the elevator or a brand-new bae—you’ll have to find something they’re all interested in. Netflix and food will likely be among those things. Otherwise, general knowledge is your best bet. 

3. Come up with fun questions 

For everyone to have fun, make sure each participant’s expertise is covered. That means having questions about Friedrich Nietzsche and Hugh Hefner, gardening and Outer Banks. Perk for you: You’ll know things like which objects went through the US customs without ever being in another country (moon rocks). A decent way to impress your next Bumble date, right?

A visual round and an audio round will keep things from getting repetitive. During an audio round you can play song clips (covers are a great option!) or movie clips (it’s definitely Arnie’s voice, but which film!?). If you’re feeling sadistic, you can make a “Guess The Accent” round. 

If you’re struggling with questions, there are plenty of online resources you can use. For example, Pub Quiz Question HQ or Mental Floss.    

Pro tip: If the people you invited know each other (and you) very well, it can be fun to ask personal questions. What is Mark’s record for most hot dogs eaten in a day? Which actor’s abs is John trying to pass off as his own on his Tinder profile? Be kind, though!

4. Establish some rules

Make sure you establish some ground rules. No messing with the quizmaster, no outside sources (you’d thought it would be obvious, but sadly not).

We know that the idea is to have fun, but it might make sense to be a little strict when it comes to timing. Otherwise your virtual trivia might end up dragging on for hours. People have dinner plans with their cats, be respectful. 

5. Plan for breaks 

Your online trivia group will want to take bathroom breaks and get refills and snacks. Plan a couple of 5- to 10-minute breaks. You can use this time to count the points, socialize or do a glorious DJ set. 

Pro tip: If your guests have never met before, it wouldn’t hurt to think of some ice-breaker questions or fun introductions. Have you ever been mistaken for someone famous? Who has the funniest middle name? (Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, but we meant from the group.) 

Also, you should announce the standings after each break, it will keep things competitive!

6. Figure out the tech aspect 

Like with most things, people have strong opinions. Go either with the app/platform you know best or the one that most participants already have installed. Your main options will likely be Skype and Zoom

A major advantage of Zoom is breakout rooms. They are part of the reason “Zoom trivia” is becoming a frequently used term. Members of each team will be able to discuss their answers without the fear of being overheard. Zoom allows up to 100 participants in one meeting. However, the free plan limits meeting time to 40 minutes. Upgrading to the pro plan will cost you $14.99 a month. 

Pro tip: If somebody in your friend group is a student or staff member at a college, they will likely have a Zoom Pro account. 

Within Skype, teams can discuss answers in a chat. Other options include having separate team calls (on Whatsapp, Telegram or even a good old phone call) or creating a Google Doc for answer suggestions.

Pro tip: Conveniently, the most popular video conferencing tools have already been compared here.

For submitting and marking answers, we suggest using Google Forms. Create a simple form providing space for a team name and answers. You can use the same template for all of the rounds. The answers can be sent to your email or show up in a Google Spreadsheet. Always a good idea to test it before your online trivia party!

If it sounds like a lot of work, you can just ask the teams to assign a responsible person to email you the answers. They should have the team name and the round number in the subject line. 

7. Give out prizes (optional)

If your friends require some motivation, announce a small but appealing prize. It can be anything from a home-cooked brunch (once the pandemic is over) to a nice bottle of wine to a fancy donut box

If you’re feeling sassy, announce that the losing team will have to take turns cat sitting your fluffy menace or picking you up from the airport for a whole year (again, once the pandemic is over). 

8. Bonus: If your friends aren’t enthusiastic 

Get a trivia app on your phone! Post-quarantine, you’ll be a star player.

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