Article | by Matt Hemmings

An overnight QUIZMASTER
success story

How we run our virtual pub quizzes and some more tips on making yours memorable


This resource is part of Adapt to COVID-19

Things around here are a little weirder than usual right now. You will know that I’m sure. Unless that is you’ve been hiding under a rock, in which case you should probably just stay there for another few months, all cosy and virus free.




Everyone else, however, will remain in the not-so-outside world trying best to stay positive, fill our time with work, Netflix, more work, and probably more Netflix until we eventually decide we should use our time more efficiently and maybe even learn a new skill or something.


I’m just going to throw it out there, I bloody love a good routine.


As much as I want to go into all the reasons why I do and why you all should too, I won’t. But for those of you who are also fellow routine lovers and even those of you who are not, there’s inevitably been some changes 'round here.




For the last couple of years, something I’ve done almost every week has been a pub quiz with my mates at the local. It’s great. It’s every Tuesday, hosted by a guy with a thick Scouse accent and the format is always the same (bonus!).


I really enjoy them.


Pub quizzes provide something fun for all the family and the questions are normally broad so they can be answered by millennials and boomers alike. There is also a nice level of competive spirit in the room where, sure, it’s great to win - but if I didn’t know until I was 27 that horses are measured in “hands” or whatever… then it’s no big deal. Yes, that is a true story. Moving on…

Along with a few supposed key pieces of “general knowledge” I’ve also learnt a few things about myself since the first quiz:

  • I know very little about a lot of things
  • I struggle to spell words under pressure - which is kind of tough when you’re the designated writer of the group
  • Regardless of the first 2 points, I still really enjoy it - and I definitely think this is felt by everyone else in the room.

🦠 Cue social distancing and the never-ending barrage of virus chatter.


So there I was, a week into isolation, missing my weekly pub quiz, the sense of normality and getting tired of talking about the same thing constantly. I knew that if I felt that I needed a distraction and something fun to look forward to, then others must do too. For this reason, I gave myself a mission: provide an evening of fun for others & myself in which we can escape from talking about current affairs & hopefully leave our anxieties at the (virtual) door for a while.


Then it hit me. Why don’t I just run my own pub quiz?


Albeit without an actual pub, I was sure I could get some people on board, even without the beer intervals.

I put the idea out on our Slack channel at Freestyle to see if anyone was game, I anticipated a few responses and maybe a trial run with 3 or 4 people that would humour me. However, what I actually got was 16 attendees with their partners or family members at home confirming to participate 🤯. It was go time. All I needed was to put on my quizmaster hat and come up with a plan.


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A little tactic called ‘Swipe & Deploy.’


I got to work coming up with all the important things:

  • A format, check.
  • Questions & answers, check.
  • A super cool name for the quiz, check.
  • Some rules & instructions, check.
  • A completely made up quizmaster persona for myself, check & check.




I swiped some inspiration from the quiz I usually attend along with more from some research on Google and then deployed them in my own. Instead of going for just traditional question rounds with varying topics, I put some others in too such as a “connections” round & and a “top 5” too. I find that breaking up the rounds into smaller chunks keeps it interesting and less ‘samey’.




Pro quizmaster tip: make sure that you leave yourself a little note next to the answers for 2 reasons. First, it makes you sound super smart throwing in a few facts here or there, and secondly it ensures if there is any kickback from the participants then you can be sure you know your stuff!


As a designer, it was habitual for me to make whatever I came up with look “pretty”, so I fired up the Adobe suite and created some slides in which I planned to share with the participants during the quiz so that it felt more of an interactive experience. Because of this, I could also then do some other rounds which were dependent on that having a visual queue. But let’s not kid ourselves, it was mainly just the excuse to get creative.

We use Zoom at Freestyle for our video conferencing so I knew this was the most accessible option in which to run my virtual pub quiz. It also allowed me to share my screen so everyone could see my sexy slides and there was less likelihood of any technical problems as everyone attending was familiar with it. I decided to stick to traditional pen and paper for the participants to write their answers and trusted them not to cheat - some things are just better low-fi.


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8pm came, we had 16 brilliant teams each with equally brilliant team names. My mission was complete, we didn’t speak about any current affairs for the whole 90 minutes, everyone had a few drinks and seemed to really enjoy it with a sense of spirits being lifted. I even got a few laughs throughout which was a great feeling even if it was at me rather than with me.


Who’s up for round 2?


I’ve just finished preparing the questions for week 2 of The “Not Quite as Good as Being in an Actual Pub” Virtual Pub Quiz. It quickly became apparent (like, as soon as the first was over) that everyone was up for doing it not just next week but every week after that too until things go back to “normal”.

My completely made-up persona of a 42-year-old quizmaster with 18 years in “the biz” is slowly starting to become more of a reality. I may have to give up designing full time, this could be a problem.




All jokes aside, after all of the feedback I received in the days following and the feeling of making a real difference to at least a portion of people’s time whilst social distancing it would be impossible for me to not run it again. I’ve even packaged up the slides and questions to give to friends & family too who want to run their own quiz but maybe doubt their ability to create one themselves.


So, will you be creating your own pub quiz? I hope you can find some nuggets of wisdom in this article, but if you need any further advice then I’d be happy to help! 

Take Joe's place!

Join us for the next virtual pub quiz!

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