How to Host a Trivia Night

Trivia Night has been a consistent part of my social life since graduating college. With our full-time jobs keeping us busy, my friends and I quickly found Trivia to be our weekly opportunity to catch up and have fun for a few hours.

In fact, I loved playing so much that I started looking into ways to become more involved. And that’s when I had a wonderful epiphany – I could make some serious money by learning how to host a Trivia Night myself.

Trivia host standing at the bar in front of a computer

Hosting is a great side hustle because it can become whatever you choose to make it. Whether you’re a college student looking for a part-time gig or you plan on turning it into a full-time job, you can host as often as you choose. Eventually, you can even hire on other hosts and scale-up your side hustle. Your journey to success starts with learning how to become a host.

I’ve learned quite a bit during my time as a player, host, and full-time Trivia ambassador. Below, you’ll find a list of my most important tips on hosting events. Whether you plan to save for retirement, start a new career, or just have some extra spending money, these tips will help you become a successful host.

Start with Bars Where You Have an “In”

As with any side hustle, you need to find a customer. This might seem like an intimidating first step, but it’s not nearly as hard as it seems.

First, consider any connections that you have to any bar or restaurant owners and managers. Starting with people you already know gives you a lower barrier to entry, because you’ve already established a relationship. If you don’t have any industry connections, other promising options are locations and areas that your competitors haven’t gone or venues where you’re a regular.

You’re Selling Increased Revenue, not Trivia

Collage of money including one dollar bills five dollar bills and twenty dollar bills

When you approach the bar owner, be sure to focus on how your service will help their business. Trivia can transform a bar’s slowest night into the busiest night of the week. It provides consistent, repeat business and some venues report that their revenue triples on certain occasions.

Bar owners are a unique group to sell to, but by keeping their needs – and how you can solve for them – in mind, you can speak their language (hint: $$$).

Work with the Bar Owner

You may have to sweeten the deal to sign your first bar. Whether that means offering the first show for free, allowing the venue to cancel at any time, or negotiating your price, keep in mind that this comes with being a new side hustler. As long as you’re not setting yourself up for a long-term loss, some concessions might be necessary for your first client. Once you have a successful side hustle up and running, your shows will sell themselves.

Invest in the Right Equipment

The good news is, starting a side hustle as a host costs far less than most other gig-economy options. The only things you’ll need to start hosting are audio equipment, a laptop, paper for printing your game materials, and pens/pencils for teams to write down their answers.

When teaching side hustlers how to host shows, I always say audio equipment is a must-have because it ensures that all teams will be able to hear you clearly. Some venues do have their own sound systems which hosts can pipe into, but if you choose to seek out only these locations rather than investing in your own equipment, you will limit your options and earning potential.

Audio equipment for trivia night

Your laptop will serve as a music source for playing music between songs. It also allows you to keep score more quickly and accurately than calculating by hand.

All told, you can expect to spend around $300 on equipment to get your side hustle started. And since the average show goes for $150-$200 per show, that means you’ll make back your money by the second week!

Use High-Quality Questions

Once you land your first hosting gig, the most important step you can take is to ensure that you knock every show out of the park. The word about your side hustle will spread, especially in the age of social media, so make sure you leave a great impression. A few stumbles on the microphone won’t sink your side hustle, but one thing that definitely will – bad questions.

Accurate

When writing a questions, there are several important things to consider. First, and most importantly, your questions absolutely must be accurate. In other words, no amount of creative tweaking can fix an incorrect question/answer.

Relevant

Second, try to stick to relevant topics. Because if a question dives too deep into a niche category, teams will struggle to come up with the answer.

Context Clues

The best questions also include small hints, or context clues, within their wording to point teams towards the correct answer. Take this question for example, “Years after achieving success with his siblings, who became the first entertainer to have officially ratified sales of more than 100 million albums outside the USA in 2006?” The sibling detail isn’t related to the main part of the question but it helps lead teams toward the correct response- Michael Jackson.

Lightbulb in front of a colorful background

Length

Also, try to keep your questions around the length of the above example. Longer questions can become confusing, but short questions tend to take the fun out of things. If the question is only a few words long, find a way to add more information and clues to make the question more enjoyable.

Pro Tip

Admittedly, there are a lot of elements that go into creating a great question and putting together an entire show can take a full day of work. That’s why I suggest investing in a subscription to a question database such as Flex. All of the questions within the Flex database are written by a team of experts from around the world and have been researched, fact-checked, and tested in front of a live audience. With Flex, you can create a show in a matter of minutes rather than hours. 

Plus, Flex comes with additional materials such as an automated Excel scoresheet, printable posters, a Trivia Host E-Book, and more. In short, by leaving the questions to the experts, you can focus on growing your side hustle or enjoying your precious free-time.

Customize the Categories to Fit Your Audience

Now, let’s start getting into the nuance of how to host shows in a way that no one else can. As a side hustler, one of the best benefits you can offer your clients is customized shows that fit the preferences of their customers. Often times custom shows aren’t offered by large companies, so be sure to leverage this with both bar owners and players.

Before the first show, ask the bar owner or manager what categories and topics they think their patrons will like. After each show, you should walk around and get to know your teams, at which point you can ask for their input about category preferences as well. This will give you an idea of which categories you should feature more heavily – and which ones you should avoid.

Choose Questions that are Appropriately Difficult

team of trivia players smiling and laughing while deciding on their answer

This is another way you can customize your shows as a side hustler. Some bars think they’re not a good fit for Trivia because their patrons don’t enjoy playing. In many cases, this is because the questions are too hard in one-size-fits-all shows. As with categories, you can use this as a selling point for your side hustle. Customizing your shows to their audience is a valuable and unique service.

Ask the bar owner whether they want an easy, average, or hard show, and tailor your questions accordingly. You can continue to tweak this for future shows based on the performance of the teams. As a best practice, aim for 75% of teams to get each question correct. This is the sweet spot where the show is competitive without feeling impossible for the players.

Wondering how to rate the difficulty level of your questions? This is another benefit of the Flex service. All questions in the database are assigned a category and difficulty level, so you can easily filter for the types of questions you need.

Create a Playlist that works for you

One of my favorite parts of hosting is creating a playlist for the show. I always create my playlist ahead of time, so I don’t have to think about which song to play next during the game. The playlist serves two main purposes: It provides background noise to keep teams from overhearing each other and it sets the tone of the game.

As a result, it’s best to avoid songs that take awhile to pick up or have drastic changes in volume. I also try to stick to upbeat songs. A slow song is okay here and there, but keep your playlist more “house party” than “pity party.”

Your music selection is another opportunity for you to create a customized experience. Before your first show, check with the venue to see if they have any genre preferences and ask your teams for song requests as you chat with them each week.

Promote your Trivia Night

Bar and restaurant owners love Trivia Night because of the extra money it brings in. Players love it because they can enjoy some friendly competition to break up their week. That means both owners and players benefit from a well attended show. So learning how to promote your show is almost as important as learning how to become a host.

The best way to spread the word is through social media. Social media offers a free platform for you to promote your show far and wide. Be sure to encourage the bar staff to post as well to increase the reach of your promotional efforts.

In my experience, Facebook is the most effective platform for promoting events. Post about your show each week as a reminder to players. You can also get creative and post questions, funny memes, polls, etc to build your following and create a community.

Smart phone screen showing social media application icons

Add a Creative Twist to Your Trivia Nights

I’ve already touched on the importance of customizing the categories, difficulty level, and playlist to fit your audience, but this tip takes the concept a step further. One way to really set yourself apart from your competitors is to add a creative, signature “twist” to your Trivia Nights. The opportunities here are endless and you can go as big – or as small – as you choose.

For example, some hosts add a theme round to their shows, which they leverage in their promotions. Or, you could even host an entire theme show. Topics that have a huge following like Harry Potter, The Office, and Disney are really popular. Super fans love to show off their knowledge and bar owners love the increased attendance. Just be sure to host theme shows sparingly, because general knowledge shows will allow you to build up a following of players.

Other hosts have created their own league which adds an additional level of competition and incentive to play. A similar but less involved approach is to create a trophy which gets passed to the winning team each week. Even if your signature is as small as closing each show with a particular song, having a distinct feature will allow players to make the connection to your brand.

So there you have it; everything you need to know about becoming a host. Whether hosting is your part time gig for extra spending money or a long term business plan, these tips will help lead you to your goal.

Ready to get started with Flex?