This is a guest post from my friend Rae McKellar. Rae was born and raised in Britain and has lived in Barcelona for the past two years. She’s a history buff, a cat mom to Molly and Ginny, and a no-nonsense badass who tells it like. Plus she’s a top-notch friend.

Rae and I met about two years ago when she started working on the same team as me at work … albeit from different offices. Me in Boston and she in Barcelona. We talk daily via WhatsApp (these conversations can’t be put on work-sponsored Slack). We’ve also had the chance to visit each other in person a handful of times. We’ve done one Zoom trivia night together while in self-isolation and one IRL trivia night during the olden days when we were allowed to travel.


Having read Kristin’s blog for a while now, I was thrilled to see her back with her Self Isolation Diaries. I was even more happy when she said she’d happily take a guest post or two. So here I am offering up a guide to the latest in quarantine socializing, the Zoom trivia night.

Although I am British, so let’s call it the Pub Quiz.

Everyone is at it, and one guy in the UK has found his 5 minutes of fame by going viral. Now celebrities are holding mini-concerts during his mid-quiz break. With a little preparation and research you can host your own quite easily. It is up to you if you round up a celebrity for a half time show.


1. Allow time for technical difficulties


The first virtual pub quiz I joined was absolute, lovely, chaos. Organized by a friend-of-a-friend who owns a (currently closed) pub in the north of England, it was a way to connect with their regular customers.

We had twelve 40 to 70 year olds, all at home, and had likely been drinking for some time before the quiz started.  I think it is also fair to say they had never operated a laptop or mobile phone before.

I’m amazed we got through the questions at all as they certainly did not understand the concept of a mute button and .

I had a similar problem hosting a quiz night with my family, where it took 30 minutes to get them all connected correctly. They had decided to join from 4 separate devices sat in the same room and the feedback and echo was horrific.

I learned from this that ‘mute all’ is an excellent feature, and that it is far better to have the questions on screen in PowerPoint or similar to cater for sound issues.


2. Pick the right tool for your group size


The other important factor is how many people you want to join the quiz, and if you want to interact with them. If you have no intention of engaging other than the comments box, then Facebook or YouTube live are excellent. I’ve joined a few great comedy nights this way.

Zoom of course is the current God of videoconferencing, but has a 40 minute limit on the free version. The trick is to find that friend who has a premium account through work (like me).

WhatsApp currently only allows 8 participants, Houseparty the same. Google Hangouts up to 10.  

I had one call where the quiz was on Zoom, my quiz team was on Hangouts, and I was also WhatsApping someone on another team. All this while simultaneously typing answers into a Google sheet and taking part in an impromptu balcony karaoke party that had sprung up on my street in Barcelona. While drinking wine. Not recommended, it was somewhat stressful.


3. Have some fun with the questions


Once I got going with preparing my first Zoom trivia night quiz I tried to make it a little different to normal trivia nights.

One of the great things about using a presentation is the potential for brilliant picture rounds.

In one I did a celebrity mugshot round where the quizzers had to guess what the celeb was  doing when arrested.

With a little googling you can find some very surreal and funny arrest stories, just check out this story about Matthew McConaughey. The only problem was, no one knew the answers. Zero points for this round. But much laughing.

Celebrity questions for Zoom Trivia Night

I changed it up for the next version, taking famous people and replacing their faces with people on the call. Much better reaction.

Funny questions for Zoom Trivia Night

My best friend took this to the next level when she replaced the lead actors on 20 movies with pictures of her and her husband.

Movie questions for zoom trivia night

We also had a lot of fun with lyrics, replacing just one word with something ridiculous.

Cheese, it’s me. I’ve been wondering if after all these years you’d like to meet…”

We also had a great and slightly risqué game of Family Fortunes (I think this was called Family Feud originally in the US). We had a go at Taskmaster when one group of friends were fed up with testing their general knowledge.   


4. Prepare yourself for arguments


The scoring and marking gets vicious, so prepare to be a complete dictator in this. Attempting to take in answers and do the scoring is a bit of a pain, so I go for an honesty policy and people declare their own marks.

Someone else will definitely Google an answer and declare you incorrect. It’s all very good natured, and a bit of competitiveness is not such a bad thing. But, I do tend to lay down the rules at the beginning and award a lot of half points to pacify some outrages.

After all, we’re not here for a family war.

I had one question where there could have been two answers about the street name of a building in my local town. I picked the official one and he debate continued for days after on WhatsApp. All good fun though. It gives you something different to talk about other than running out of toilet paper or the neighbors breaking curfew.


5. Prepare questions for all quizzers


I also recommend considering the audience. When I was quizzing with my Mum I tried to put a few questions that she would be more likely to know, as she isn’t that up to date on current affairs or popular culture. She still didn’t get them right but at least she could get involved.

I hope these tips have helped. Good luck planning your own Zoom trivia night!

Cover photo by Nick Morrison on Unsplash. All in-text photos are from Rae, the quiz master!