The Difference Between a Professional Corporate Emcee & A Bar Trivia Host

Corporate.trivia.emcee.jpgCorporate trivia emcee

I’ve been producing and hosting trivia nights for corporate groups professionally for over ten years, and it has been my livelihood for nearly six. During that time, I’ve been asked many predictable questions: how did I get into this unique line of work? Am I a trivia “guru?” Or my personal favorite: “Ask me a trivia question!”

But there is one question which I really don’t like getting, the reason being because if I’m asked it, it means I haven’t done a good job of explaining what TrivWorks is, and what we do. That question: “Why would I hire a professional trivia emcee instead of a bar quiz host?”

I alluded to this with my post last week (which you can read here), and this week I thought I’d tackle the subject head-on.

To start, I’m going to admit that it’s a completely fair question. Whether you have been tasked with putting together an office trivia party in NYC, corporate game show in Southern California, or a team building retreat in the mountains somewhere, if a quiz night is what you are seeking, then you start with what you know. For most people, that means pub quiz.

Ah, the pub quiz. It’s how I got my start in this (to answer one of the questions I posed above), when I spent 6 or 7 years hosting 2-3 events a week in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Assuming it’s a well-run event, these informal competitions can be a LOT of fun. Just imagine, then, how much fun a similar competitive experience could be, if instead of being produced for a bunch of strangers at the local watering hole, it was created for a group of employees – or even clients!

Suffice to say, I know pub quiz. And I know corporate events, having done them for so long. I’m a hybrid, a crossover if you will, having become fully developed in both of these unique worlds, first as a top-rated bar quizmaster, then as the founder of the nation’s premier corporate trivia supplier.

As such, let me state flatly and unambiguously here: a pub quiz host is NOT the same as a corporate emcee.

At TrivWorks, I make a point of only hiring extremely seasoned, highly experienced professional emcees to lead our events – people who specifically have a strong background in front of corporate audiences. There are several reasons I do this. First off, if a company is bringing in a professional trivia vendor, then they must have an important audience. You can define “important” any way you like: full-time employees, managers/executives, loyal clients, potential new clients, brand enthusiasts, summer interns – the list goes on.

Now, let me ask you: if you were tasked with putting on an event for an audience made of up one of the above groups, what kind of emcee would you want to put in front of them? If you’re like me, then you want not just good, but GREAT. You want someone who exudes professionalism, who has a sharp and polished appearance, who can command attention and compose themselves in an entertaining yet dignified manner, who can think on their feet yet has a deep well of experience to draw from. In short, you want someone who’s DONE THIS a lot, who has developed a level of comfort and ease in front of the most important of audiences, which can only be obtained through years and years of experience (here’s a recent example).

Why else do I only work with professional emcees? Because they represent ME. They represent my brand, which I’ve worked so hard to develop over such a long period of time, and I want to know that I can trust them to do so in front of any client. But guess what? My emcee also represents YOU! If you’re the one who found TrivWorks, or who made the decision to move forward with us, then whoever winds up coming to emcee your event is going to reflect upon you: your judgment, your decision making skills, and your own reputation will be up there for all to see. I want to not only come out looking good here, but to make YOU look good as well!

Now, let’s say you’ve decided that instead of having a professional vendor come in and produce your event/send an emcee, you’re going to go with the local bar trivia host down the street. Seems like a wise choice, you say – less hassle, MUCH cheaper, and after all who cares, it’s just a corporate trivia night anyway…right?

I’ve had the above conversation many times over the last decade, sometime with prospective clients (a whopping three times last week, in fact), and sometimes with myself, as I incredulously hand up the phone.

Why? Let me explain.

While there are certainly some very talented folks behind the mic at bars, restaurants and other public spaces all over the place, that doesn’t translate into being the right choice for a CORPORATE event. Remember when I was talking above about the importance of the audience, and how whoever you put up in front of them will represent you? Ponder this for a moment: who exactly IS this host you’re considering bringing in to entertain your CO-WORKERS, your BOSSES, your CLIENTS, your PROSPECTIVE CLIENTS?

As someone who has spent a lot of years hosting bar quiz nights in the largest city in the country, I can tell you exactly who. He or she is most likely a young adult in their 20s/30s, who is struggling financially and seeking a way to supplement their income. He or she hosts one gig a week, possibly two, and probably hasn’t been doing this very long – a year or two tops. They got the gig either by being a regular bar patron or, more likely, through a Craigslist ad seeking “fun, outgoing individuals,” ideal for “aspiring actors or standup comics.” While no doubt fun and outgoing, the typical bar trivia host also has limited experience doing this outside of the place they typically rock the mic, and almost certainly has little to no experience doing it in front of corporate audiences.

Can you trust such a person in front of your group? Possibly. Might they do a good job? Perhaps. But the real question here is: SHOULD you?

Do you really want to risk it? Somebody who’s sum experience in trivia hosting lies in asking questions to pub patrons on Tuesday nights for the last 6 months? Somebody who’s never been in front of a professional audience? Somebody you have no idea whether they will show up on time, or at all? Somebody who has no idea what “team building” is, but will do whatever you want so long as you pay in cash?

Is it really worth it?

I leave this to you. In some cases, the answer to the above question may, in fact, be “Yes.” Maybe you’ve got an informal event for a small young group, with an extremely casual culture and virtually no budget. In this case, you know what? Go with the pub quiz host. But once we’re talking about a bigger event, a more important event, an event where professionalism and experience DOES matter, do yourself a favor: bring in a pro.

For an extreme example of what you DON’T want showing up to host your corporate trivia event, visit

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