company.trivia.night.jpgCompany trivia night

My wife and I have two small children, and as they get older they are becoming more and more aware of their surrounding – and beginning to question them. My five-year-old daughter recently came up to me while I was toiling away at my home office one night and asked, “Daddy, what’s your work?”

Not quite sure how to explain that I am a supplier of trivia entertainment for company parties and corporate events, I simply said, “My job is to make people laugh!” To which she promptly replied, “You’re a clown?”

*Rim shot*

This cute exchange did get me thinking, however, about a fundamental question: what DO I do? I have a job like no one else you’re likely to ever meet. I could have selected a more traditional career path, upon which you would now be reading my law blog or what have you. But I decided to do this instead, because I truly do enjoy making people happy, and giving them a great experience. And after personally emceeing and producing over 1,000 public and corporate trivia nights over the past eleven years, I have acquired a truly unique expertise in the area.

And so, I’d like to present to you the five elements which make up the perfect office trivia night. No one factor alone will make your event a success, however when applied in combination, if these critical factors line up, your event will be a guaranteed win. Read on!

1. The Venue

Where you hold your event is going to play a crucial role in how well the gig is received by your attendees. As the planner, you have many different options here: onsite or offsite? Traditional or quirky? With food or without? Nearby or a distance away? So much to think about!

For starters, decide if you want this fest to be held onsite at the office or not. Usually this isn’t the first choice, because hey – it’s the workplace. It’s designed for work, not for onsite corporate trivia events. However, even with florescent lights buzzing overhead and the printer going in the next room, hosting a company trivia party onsite at the office is still a fantastic option, and shouldn’t be ruled out – especially if budget is an issue.

Assuming you’ve decided to hold this function offsite, you must now select an appropriate venue. To keep interest and enthusiasm high, as well as attrition at a minimum, I recommend selecting a compelling venue which is nearby the workplace. You MUST have your event in a private space; don’t informally “take over” the back area of a bar or restaurant. You don’t want ambient noise from other patrons, blaring TVs, etc. interfering with the experience, and if the material is going to be customized, there’s a privacy concern as well (we’ll get to the trivia questions in just a moment).

Depending on the “feel” you are looking for, you can go with an informal event at a pub, a more formal event at a hotel or event space, or even a full performance venue, such as a concert space or cabaret theater with a full stage setup. Regardless of which venue you choose, it is always best to have a space with a built-in sound system, so that you don’t need to have amps and microphones brought in. More on this below.

2. The Emcee

As I’m sure you already surmised, the host plays a critical role in the success of a company trivia party. This person is the “face” of the experience, the one front and center who sets the tone, runs the show, and keeps things moving at a steady pace. You want somebody who is not only engaging, funny and competent, but also polished and professional; this isn’t some bar trivia night after all, it’s a corporate trivia event for employees, clients, interns, brand enthusiasts or other valued stakeholders. The person up in front of the room represents not just your company, but YOU personally!

As such, you want to ensure that your emcee is both experienced, as well as an expert. Experienced in that he or she isn’t just a high-energy actor or host of a weekly pub quiz down the street, but rather has tremendous corporate event experience in front of professional audiences. By expert, I mean a professional emcee who has proficiency specifically running live trivia events. Company game shows are like no other interactive corporate event entertainment ideas out there, and as such they require a very niche area of training expertise to lead. You will be best suited by seeing a professional trivia event entertainment supplier.

3. The Material

Once the venue and the emcee are squared away, you will then want to focus in on making sure that the trivia questions you use are the best they can possibly be. How? For starters, they must be relevant and appropriate to your audience, as well as your event goals. This can only be achieved by knowing exactly who will be in the room, and having a crystal-clear understanding of just why you are holding this event in the first place.

Once you know your audience, you must then write or select questions which are both CHALLENGING and FUN. This is harder than it looks, believe me; people are smart, and you don’t want to use trivia questions which are too easy, otherwise you will insult their intelligence and they will tune out. Conversely, you can’t use questions which are too hard, otherwise people feel dumb and it won’t be enjoyable. Finding that “sweet spot” of questions which are just challenging enough for your intended audience takes years of practice to perfect, but it makes a huge difference, believe me!

At TrivWorks, we hold a brief customization call in advance of each event, using a proven process to quickly obtain all of the information we need from clients to tailor the experience (you can read more about this by clicking here).

4. The Teams

The entire room will be enjoying a fun shared experience, however the teams themselves – usually groups of 5-10 people – will have a particularly unique opportunity to bond. Whether they win or lose, they will be collaborating, laughing, and competing together for the duration of the event, getting to know one another in a way that they never could in the workplace.

As such, you as the organizer have a wonderful opportunity to give some thought in advance to who is on which team, and why. Do you want to strengthen the bonds which already exist among people who work together? Or do you want to use this as a chance to mix people up, to get them talking with folks whom they wouldn’t normally cross paths with on any given workday? Maybe you’ve got new folks whom you want to integrate? Or perhaps you’ve got some people who haven’t been communicating or getting along as well as you would like, and this would be a great chance for them to reset their relationships?

One note of caution here: I wouldn’t spend too much time trying to balance out the teams based on “strengths” and skill sets. By this I mean, don’t worry about the final score. Yes, you can go ahead and make sure there’s a balanced mix of ages, genders, international attendees and managerial levels to make for an even playing field. But once you start getting into things like, “Well, Bill from accounting is good at science, but Rachel from marketing knows history…” it’s a rabbit hole which will consume your time and energy. Break down the teams thoughtfully, but don’t kill yourself doing so.

5. The Sound System

As my longtime business collaborator and TrivWorks “Special Host” Pat Kiernan says, the one thing that will make or break these events is the sound system. Whether your audience is 15 people or 1,500, you HAVE to make sure that the sound system A) works, and B) works well. You can go to great lengths to find a perfect venue, book a fantastic emcee, craft perfect trivia questions and carefully break down optimal teams, only to find that people can’t hear what’s going on.

Who needs that?

As mentioned above, the ideal situation is to find a venue which provides an excellent sound system. Team trivia is a unique form of live event entertainment, in that there is a lot of audience engagement and response; the sound system must be such that a raucous, cheering (and sometimes jeering) crowd can still hear both the host and the music clearly. Otherwise, it can severely impact the experience, and turn what should have been an awesome even into a complete dud.

For another useful article on how to run a trivia night, visit