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Trivia Night Tips and Etiquette

Updated on December 22, 2011

If you’ve been invited to participate in a Trivia Night and are not sure what is expected of you, you’ve come to the right place.

Trivia Nights are a fun way to spend an evening with friends, family or coworkers, and are usually held to raise money for a charity or fundraiser. Keep reading for some tips to have a fun and victorious Trivia Night.

What is a Trivia Night?

Before we get into the tips, let’s talk about what a Trivia Night is. Generally, a Trivia Night is a trivia tournament made up of multiple teams, usually ten people each. The teams each have their own table. There are usually ten categories, things like history, sports, pop culture, etc, and the questions are read aloud, one at a time.

You are allowed and encouraged to brainstorm with your teammates to select one answer that you write on the official scoring sheet, which is turned in to the judges after each round. The team that answers the most questions out of 100 is the winner.


How to Have a Successful Trivia Night Experience

Though Trivia Nights are usually meant to help a cause, some people find that they really enjoy them and try to build a team that can win every time. Usually the prize is barely more than you paid to enter (usually $10 per person), but is based on the number of teams that enter.

Here are some tips that will help you win, and make sure you don’t stand out like a newbie:

  • Assemble a Diverse Team
  • Follow the Rules!
  • Study the Night Before
  • Table Etiquette
  • Support the Add-On Activities

Assemble a Diverse Team

This is perhaps the most important way to win and have fun at a Trivia Night. Because the questions are spread across a variety of subjects and decades (think 1950s through current times), it is best to make sure you have a variety of players who know these subjects.

If you are in charge of putting a team together, you must include at least one person in their 60s, someone who knows TV from the 50s, 60s and 70s, as well as music. These are some of the most common categories.

By the same token, you should have someone in high school or college that is tuned in to current events and pop culture, someone who can tell you what a Lady Gaga is. High schoolers and college students are usually actively studying history and science, so they can be a help in these categories.

If you are a transplant to the city in which the tournament is held, try to get someone on your team who has lived in the city all their life, maybe someone in their forties. This is because there is often a category dedicated to local trivia and local places.

Also, don’t ignore your buddy who you think is dumb because he knows a lot about sports. He will be a critical link in your team, even if he answers no other questions in any categories. Try to select someone who knows current sports, as well as sports and sports milestones from the past.

Whatever you decide to do, if you want to win and have a good time, assemble a diverse team. You will likely be more successful if you know everyone at the table, because people can be uncomfortable being assertive with strangers.

Follow the Rules!

Most trivia nights have generally the same sets of rules. The main one is no cheating. In this day of smartphones, it can be tempting knowing that the key to victory is resting in your pocket. DON’T DO IT!

Winning a charity trivia tournament is not worth being branded a cheater. Cheating corrupts the very nature of the game, and can ruin the event for everyone in attendance.

Also, make sure you get your sheets in on time and pay attention to any intermissions and breaks. If you use the bathroom, that doesn’t mean you can pull out your phone and research some of the upcoming topics.

Study the Night Before

A nice game of Trivial Pursuit with your teammates the night before can go a long way towards getting in the mindset and brushing up on some tidbits that can help you win. You can also talk to people who have participated in Trivia Nights hosted by the same entity or company to see what categories are often used.

Another trick is to use Wikipedia to look up the date of the event and see what other historically notable events happened on the same day or week. Check out the music charts from the 50s through today to find out the top albums of the decade, though it is likely too much information to try to study each year.

Also, spend an hour on CNN’s website and the New York Times to find out what is in the news this week. There will likely be a category on current events.

Don’t beat yourself up too much studying. Trivia Nights are supposed to be fun and not work, and generally reflect the knowledge you have picked up through your life. By looking at current events and doing some trivia games, you can greatly improve your chances at winning.

Table Etiquette

If you’ve never participated in a Trivia Night before, you may be wondering what is expected of you.

First, it is polite to bring snacks to share. These can be bags of chips and dip, cookies and brownies, get the picture.

Second, bring something to write with and a notepad. This can be helpful in writing down the questions (important because they often aren’t repeated), and quietly sharing answers, which leads us to our next tip...

Be quiet! If you know the answer, don’t shout it because other tables will hear you.

Know when to be assertive. This is the trickiest part. No one wants to strongly insist they are right, causing the person with the actual correct answer to back down. There is no way to prepare for this, and it’s just part of the dynamic of a Trivia Night. Having ten people can be a great help, but it can also hamstring you at times. The key is finding the right team and the right balance.

Support the Add-On Activities

Because most Trivia Nights are for charity, there will likely be other events like 50/50 raffles and contests. At the last event I went to, they had a solo trivia challenge to see who was the best in the room, regardless of team.

These events usually cost extra, but are a nice way to help support the cause. You should also talk with your team before the event to decide what you are going to do when you win. At some events, there can be pressure to donate your winnings back to the charity.

If you are an established team that is known, it is ok to just split the winnings back amongst the team. Since the prize is usually not that much more than you paid to enter, you may get more satisfaction by just donating it back and keeping the thrill of victory as the prize. Just make sure you talk it out before so everyone on your team is on the same page.

Have Fun!

The most important part of a Trivia Night is the fun. If you don’t relax and remember to have a good time (and a few beers), you may decide that trivia is not for you. I hope I have left you with some tips that will make your next, or first, Trivia Night experience a success.


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    • DameJudy profile image


      4 years ago from Columbia, MO

      Great tips. I can't stand when people yell things out!!

    • kikalina profile image


      6 years ago from Europe

      Very interesting hub especially the bit about cheatibg ruining it for everyone!


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