Archive for March, 2011
Prior to starting TrivWorks, I had the unique pleasure of working for two years as a freelancer for one of New York City’s most reputable – and busy – scavenger hunt companies (yes, there really is such a thing). Companies would hire out the scavenger company to create/host team building, client entertainment, branding and experiential marketing events, and my job was to both write customized scavenger hunts, as well as to produce/host them. It was a ton of fun for me and, more importantly, for the clients.
When I decided to launch my own team building company, I had a choice of either creating a scavenger hunt company- a proven market where I had a good degree of experience- or to branch out into the world of live trivia, a virtually untested area outside of pub quiz. I am of course thrilled to have done the latter, and believe strongly that I made the right choice; however, is there really a big difference between the two types of activities from a team building perspective?
Let’s take an honest look at both:
No doubt about it, scavenger hunts are a great way for a group to have fun. I’ve always loved them since I was a kid, and as an adult they still satisfy. There is unquestionably a value in creating a fun, memorable experience for your team by sending them off to find clues and take digital pictures, which may be enjoyed long after the event is over. It’s also a great bonding opportunity, as the group must compete as teams against each other.
I found, though, that the clues themselves could never be THAT challenging, as the goal was for all teams to finish the scavenger hunt route in a given period of time. It’s also hard to customize a scavenger hunt, when the goal is to find the next clue location; can you really change a clue to appeal to group of lawyers, vs. a groups of architects? Scavenger hunts also require a huge time commitment to be done right; 15-20 minutes for orientation, 2-3 hours for the hunt itself, then at least an hour for a wrap-up, photo display and awards ceremony. All told, it’s a long day/night, and can be quite exhausting for participants.
Like scavenger hunts, live trivia offers a great opportunity for both strong impact and bonding for a group. That desire to “win” is powerful, yet good natured; in the end, everyone really wins, because they had a great time playing the game. With trivia, though, I find that there are many ways to creatively customize questions for a group, which leads to greater impact, thus delivering greater value to groups- especially if the goal is to reward and boost morale. I also like how everyone can participate, regardless of age or disability, which is not the case with scavenger hunts.
One advantage scavenger hunts will always have over trivia is changing scenery; let’s face it, for folks stuck in an office all day, it’s fun to run around the city! However, it’s also nice to stay warm and dry; I’ve seen my share of hunts run in the rain (AND snow), and am convinced indoor events such as trivia are more comfortable. Add in that the total time commitment is only 2 hours start to finish, and you’ve got an experience which will be more favorably remembered in the long run.
Ultimately, the choice of a scavenger hunt versus a trivia event will depend on the group, and both will likely be a fun time. From a corporate team building perspective, however, I feel that live trivia picks up the slack that scavenger hunts can’t make up in customization, comfort, convenience and lasting positive impact.
But that’s just my opinion, and I’m somewhat biased. What do YOU think?
“You asked a Barbra Streisand question! Where the heck did THAT come from?”
The funny thing about trivia questions is, everyone thinks they’re so easy to come up with. So did I- when I first started in this business. Then I realized something strange: after a couple of months of churning out a steady stream of my best trivia questions (we all have them in our heads), I found that’d I’d plain run out! Poof! Suddenly, I found myself staring at a blank MS Word document, which had to be filled with 50 trivia questions for each event I did.
Not so easy, is it?
I quickly discovered that I need to devise a system for churning out a high volume of creative, original trivia questions on a regular basis. One answer, as my fellow quiz night hosts and trivia enthusiasts will attest, is this: keep your antennae up!
From the moment I wake up, my eyes and ears are open to potential trivia. If I’m like other New Yorkers, in addition to the random happenings that occur during the course of each day I am constantly having songs, memories, cravings and other fleeting sensations run through my mind. The only difference is, I’ve trained myself to be aware of them as they happen.
I used to carry around a piece of paper and a pen to scribble down the totally random lyric, forgotten toys or candy bars, chance celebrity sightings or anything else that was outside of my normal train of thought or daily life path; these days I jot them down in my iphone, to be quickly forgotten the moment I hit “Done” and not to be thought of again until I’m ready to write trivia later that week or day (or hour).
Another great way I glean trivia that’s outside of my usual genres or interests is to peruse the online news sites. Whenever I’m writing trivia, I always cruise over to CNN.com or NYTimes.com, and look at all of the nice headlines grouped together by subject. Not only is this a great way to collect some current events questions, but I find that it really helps drive my creative engine to see something I normally wouldn’t have thought about.
For example, I’m not a huge sports fan, so I’ll naturally skim the bottom of CNN.com under “Sports” and look for a headline that grabs me (ex: “Tiki Barber Plans to Unretire”). That means nothing to me. However, now I’m thinking about people who’ve come out of retirement; Cher? Garth Brooks? Barbra? Ah, let’s go with Barbra- what’s a good Barbra Streisand Question? How about “Who holds the record for the most top ten albums of any female recording artist?” That’s a good trivia question.
What are some other ways one could generate some fresh & thoughtful trivia questions?
This April, we are thrilled to present a special night of “old school” trivia from the late 80s/early 90s at Social Bar & Lounge, held in partnership with Live Nation! In a unique trivia event, come test your retro pop culture knowledge of the movies, music and styles of this beloved bygone era.
*JUST ANNOUNCED! Prizes will include a $25 bar tab, 2 tickets to see Toad the Wet Sprocket perform at Irving Plaza on Thursday, April 7th, & 2 tickets to see House of Pain perform at Irving Plaza on Friday, April 8th!
Monday, April 4th , 7pm – Free!
Social Bar & Lounge
795 8th Ave (b/w 48th & 49th St)
We will also be throwing in plenty of our usual general knowledge, history, geography and other questions, but only those who know their Cavariccis from their Keds will win!
By November 2006, barely 2 months after starting my new gig as the volunteer “quizmaster” at Manhattan’s Gael Pub, the bar had to buy a new laptop so that I could score the 30+ teams each week on Excel, rather than by hand. I was still in shock with the overwhelming response I’d received in a short period of time. Over 100 people were coming out each week- each week!- on a TUESDAY NIGHT, to play trivia- and they said it was because of ME!
Who the heck am I??
I’m just some guy, a dude who lives around the corner and works as a junior event planner at The 92nd Street Y. What was I doing that made people come out like this?
I still don’t have a good answer to that question, and am both baffled and humbled when I think about it. My theory, however, is that people responded well to my basic premise, the one lens which I made sure to view my new role as “quizmaster” through every week when I picked up the microphone, and which I still do:
It has to be fun.
I knew instinctively – as well as though my limited experience playing pub quiz – that the host had to make the event enjoyable, or there was no point in being there. Sure, people like to feel smart; they revel in competition, and love a good mental challenge with quality trivia questions after a long day at the job. But if the experience isn’t fun, well- than they might as well stay at home and work on a crossword puzzle.
So, that became my thing. Make it fun! For me, this meant injecting humor wherever I could (but not forcing it); make a big thing out of funny team names, rip on the ridiculously wrong answers people give, even make fun of myself a bit (“I’m a quizmaster- and yet, surprisingly, single” went over well, back when it was true).
It worked. Not only did people keep coming back week after week, but they kept approaching me afterwards and telling me how much fun they were having, and that I was doing a great job- wow!
Do you have a similar experience starting up your own trivia night?
As described in an earlier post about my start in the trivia events world, by September of 2006 I had only been hosting my new trivia night at The Gael Pub for a month, and had already been rewarded with a loyal turnout of…well, strangers! Over 50 of them, coming out of nowhere. Who WERE these people, laughing at my dumb jokes and cheering when I changed their team names to make them more- err…”colorful?”
They were all around my age, late 20s-early 30s, mixed gender, and they all seemed well-educated and fun-loving. They were enthused and excited by the competitive atmosphere, drew amusing doodles on their answer sheets and even thought I was funny (sometimes). And more people kept coming!
I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, but clearly I was doing something right. By October the bar was filled to capacity on Tuesday nights, with every table and bar stool taken. I knew that there was momentum going, and wanted to capitalize on this incredibly strange, completely surprising- yet clearly successful- new thing I was doing.
My work experience prior to that point had been primarily in public relations, so I had a good sense of what was “newsworthy” and what would make it into print. There weren’t a lot of pub quiz nights in the city back then, and having one as successful as The Gael pop up overnight seemed like something worth writing about.
So I emailed Time Out New York.
The following week, there it was, in print:
“City Pick: The Gael Pub Trivia Night, Tuesdays 9pm. FREE
“Quizmaster David Jacobson offers teams the chance to win a $50 bar tab at this UES trivia night. Even if your trivia skills are subpar, you can dazzle the crowd with your brilliant team name. We’re keen on ‘Ironic Savants.’”
They printed MY NAME! And called me a “Quizmaster!” In TIME OUT NEW YORK!
After that, there was no going back. The following Tuesday, the bar was packed- completely packed. So packed that I couldn’t even elbow my way through the front door to get to my place behind the bar.
We had over 30 teams that night, and it took me FOREVER to keep up with the scoring with my primative pen and scratch paper- but I did. And people had fun.
And so did I…!
In an upcoming post, I will talk about my experience maintaining a popular pub quiz night in New York City.