How To Host a Trivia Event That Will Delight Guests Beyond Their Wildest Dreams

Autostraddle’s first themed meet-up month of the year is dropping this April and the idea is TRIVIA, as per a Straddler suggestion. You can read all about that in our Trivial Cahoots announcement, but if you still have questions about how, exactly, to host your own trivia extravaganza, good news, this is where that’s going to be discussed!

Consider a Theme

You don’t need a theme for a trivia night — Reasons Why Not include the possibility that “a theme outside potential participants’ realms of interest might decrease participation” and “it seems easier to come up with questions without a theme.” But there are plenty of reasons to have a theme too, like that it’s often easier to come up with questions when you narrow the field of options and that a theme provides guidance for refreshments, decorations, costumes, or other activities. If you’re concerned about a topic being inaccessible for some guests, you can pick something broad — an Outer Space party can include questions about space-themed movies, astrology, the history of space travel, astronomy, and idioms / slang that use space vocabulary in totally different contexts. You can always count on “Queer Pop Culture” to be a popular topic amongst Autostraddle readers.

Also, feel free to not have a theme. If your meet-up group is new or full of people who’ve never met each other, it might be easier not to. The world is full of possibilities, how could we ever entertain them all!

Trivia Teams and Format

When you’ve got a big group of people you absolutely cannot pull off a trivia game that requires people to “buzz in” or otherwise alert a sole human that they think they know the answer. That’s why Bar Trivia — another term for “pub quiz,” a format of game established in the UK in the 1970s to pack the pubs on slow weeknights — is the way to go.

Everybody splits into groups of 4-5, they get answer sheets for each round of 5-10 questions, the MC reads the questions and the group whispers together to write down what they think is the correct answer. Don’t do multiple choice questions, they’ll take longer to write and to read and it’s just not as much fun.

At the end of each round, you read out the answers and each group scores their own sheets. This requires incredible trust in your fellow humans and yourself, but I truly believe that if you place your trust in them, they will reward you with trustworthy behavior.

Mix It Up, Grasshopper!

It’s best to give each round a theme, like Celesbian Gal Pals, Dinosaurs, Family-Style Chain Restaurants, Netflix Shows, Board Games or Gay Animals. Or, like Jeopardy, you can do novelty rounds where all answers contain a specific word or start with a specific letter or include words of a certain theme.

Rather than straight question/answer or answer/question, you can mix it up by having different types of questions each round. Like “I give the name of the album, you tell me the musician” or “complete the song lyric” or, like we did once at A-Camp Lesbian Jeopardy, “name the women’s college based on the description of that college from The Simpsons.” Or, “I tell you the time period and the setting, you tell me the movie.”

For fun beyond anything you’ve ever considered possible, you can bring multi-media elements and ask readers to identify them, like guessing the TV show based on a clip of the theme song or an artist by a picture or a movie by a line you act out yourself in full costumes with props and an orchestra. The opportunities are endless. For example:

  • Invite celesbians to your home, then they will find out how famous they are based on whether or not your guests can identify them
  • Get all your friends to bring their dogs and see who can correctly identify the dog breeds
  • Make everybody wear a blindfold and taste tiny paper cups of soda pop and then they guess the flavor except spoiler alert it’s all Coconut LaCroix
  • Don’t wash your clothes when you cook for ~1 month and then make people guess what you had for dinner by what your hoodie smells like
  • Everybody who wants to takes pictures of their boobs and then everybody who wants to guesses whose boobs are whose
  • I describe how my stomach feels right now, you tell me if you think it was the tempeh bacon or the avocado
  • Perform dances you learned on instagram and everybody has to guess if you’re doing Emma Portner, Hayley Kiyoko, Keke Palmer or a small child Ellen DeGeneres found on YouTube and invited to her show
  • Give volunteers from each team haircuts and the other team has to guess which celesbian the haircut was inspired by
  • Read an angry tweet somebody tweeted @ autostraddle and everybody guesses which fandom it was from
  • Make a mold of your teeth and everybody guesses when you got your braces off (or if you had braces at all!)
  • Everybody closes their eyes and you turn on various objects like a chainsaw or a tiny vibrator and they have to guess what that noise is
  • Something involving crystals

Write Good Questions

It’s good to test your questions on some friends to ensure they’re not too hard or too easy, especially if it’s a category you’re a personal expert on. As esteemed Harry Potter Trivia Master And All Around Wonderful Human Being Heather Hogan advises: “The goal of trivia isn’t to stump the people doing it and make them feel less smart than you; it’s to help people connect and feel good about how much they know about something they love as much as someone else!” For example, every time I make a trivia game I think I’m writing pretty basic questions that most lesbian, bisexual and queer women could answer, and most of the time, I am totally wrong and everybody hates me by the end of it. That’s why it’s important to also be funny, and to be flexible. Which brings me to…

Get a Good Host

A good emcee who can read the room is crucial to a successful trivia night. Your host should ideally be familiar enough with the material to improvise on the spot if it seems like every group is struggling and could use an extra clue, or if you wanna throw in some bonus points here and there for fun (like when I offered an extra point to anybody who not only guessed the name of the celesbian who dated Michelle Rodriguez and St. Vincent but also could spell her last name correctly). Although admittedly I’d had a few adult beverages prior to hosting Bar Trivia at an Olivia Resort (because I was nervous and also going through the worst lesbian breakup of all time and also Donald Trump had been elected president two days before) and my co-host, Sarah, says totally bananas things on microphones whether she’s drunk or not, everybody had fun ’cause we didn’t just ask questions, we also made jokes! Everybody loves jokes. That was probably my most successful trivia game ever, most likely because there were people over 30 in the audience who remembered the ’90s.

Also, at A-Camp Music Trivia, Crystal used to throw candy at people. I’m not sure what the context is for the candy-throwing, but she said it went well!


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Riese is the 36-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker, low-key power lesbian and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2568 articles for us.

13 Comments

  1. nice! trivia with friends is so much fun! i lived in a community where we did rotating trivia nights, and the hosts always came up with questions with all the participants’ areas of interest in mind. one host was amazing and mashed up two different songs and you had to name the title and the artist of both songs. i hosted one on my birthday and made the tie-breaker all about me, which i highly recommend. name my birth stone or -20 points!

  2. Me:”Awww, look at that cute Shiba Inu!”
    A friend’s mom:”A what?”
    My roommate:”Shiba Inu, it’s one of Japan’s like, three dog breeds”
    Friend’s Mom: “oh, you guys are dog enthusiasts??”
    Me:”We’re really more trivia enthusiasts”

    ME BEING READY FOR THIS DAMN THING

  3. “Everybody loves jokes.” That feels like solid life advice.

    I always love trivia no matter how well (or not well) I do. Once I went to Harry Potter trivia with a bunch of friends, one of whom could identify the book in question by the chapter title, so I was way more useless than I originally thought I’d be, but I had a blast anyway. Can’t wait for these Trivial Cahoots!

  4. Perform dances you learned on instagram and everybody has to guess if you’re doing Emma Portner, Hayley Kiyoko, Keke Palmer or a small child Ellen DeGeneres found on YouTube and invited to her show

    I laughed a lot at this.

    Also Riese – in UK pub quizzes, you usually swap your answer sheet with a neighbouring team to ensure fair marking, and maybe also it’s an attempt to force people to have awkward conversations and make friends?

    Also Riese’s 90s trivia was the best at the last A-Camp, and I’m not saying that just because my team won, but actually I am.

    Also, one of my fave pub quiz elements is “running rounds” where you get something that can be working on throughout the whole evening. Obvs picture rounds are a good thing, or it could also be a bunch of puzzles, or listing things e.g. “name all the TV lesbians who died in 2016” or “match Shane’s haircut to the correct season of the L Word”

  5. Ooh ooh I just came up with an idea…and just came up with a reason it is terrible: allergies.

    The idea was have different spices in identical dishes, blindfold people, have them take a sniff and guess which spice it is but people are allergic to cinnamon, even garlic utter you fool.
    And other things.
    So doing it with food might also be risky. >_>

    A bonus that doesn’t subtract the minus however; if a person smells something they really like and never had before they could have a fun new spice or food to go try.

    Maybe if you have close friends and know all their food allergies it might be an okay game, other than that you don’t want to know what it costs to replace an epipen.
    But everyone should learn how to use one in my opinion, like CPR and pulse checking.

  6. Prizes! I was at a trivia night where the hosts had bought some silly (cowboy?) hats and the winning team got them and got to decide who got which hat. Then, of course, they wore them in the group pictures documenting their win. I imagine the young people would post those pictures somewhere.

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