5 Qualities of a Fantastic Trivia Host for Corporate/Private Events

Trivia.Host.Private.Events.jpgTrivia Host Private Events

Perhaps the most rewarding part of my job occurs after an event has concluded, when I call up the client the next day to find out how it was received. Things either went perfectly (most of the time), near-perfect (sometimes) or, occasionally, there were some challenges which had to be overcome – most often things beyond my control, such as the room being too cold, the venue’s projector not functioning properly, etc.

One thing which I’m ALWAYS told, however: the emcee was AWESOME!

One of the key factors which sets TrivWorks apart from bar trivia companies or corporate entertainment “warehouses” (jacks of all trades, masters of none) is that I only hire trained, professional emcees to lead trivia events. Specifically, I only work with emcees who have years and years of corporate and private event experience. I will not send somebody who’s never done any kind of professional game show hosting before, or whose experience is limited to running a bar trivia night, to lead an event for one of my clients.


As my client, you are expecting the person leading your event to not only deliver a fantastic experience, but to essentially represent YOU in front of your colleagues, loyal clients, interns, brand users or other key audience members. As the producer, the only way I can guarantee this is to work exclusively with professionals – proven, seasoned pros, who know what they’re doing and can handle the job. And after years of careful recruiting and training, I now have many to choose from.

Just what kind of qualities am I looking for in a host? What separates a phenomenal emcee from a bad one, or even a “good” one? Here’s what I look for when I hire – and what you should expect when you bring TrivWorks aboard to produce your gig!


First off, the emcee must be a professional. What do I mean by this? He or she must look and act the part of a pro, from the moment they arrive at the venue, until they leave once the gig has concluded.

There are several different components to professionalism, each of which is just as important as the others – and the absence of which will have a severe impact. Let’s go through them individually:

  • Promptness – A pro arrives on time, and ends on time. He or she is never late, and takes great pains to ensure that the client is never waiting anxiously by the door or the side of the stage.
  • Polished Appearance – A pro dresses appropriately for the occasion, and shows proper respect for the audience and event in how he/she presents themself. A pro is ALWAYS well-groomed, looks sharp, isn’t drenched in cologne, and is stage-ready from the get-go.
  • Even-Tempered – A pro is courteous and respectful to everybody, and demonstrates politeness both onstage and offstage. He/she NEVER loses their cool, lashes out, or deliberately insults audience members.
  • Confidence – A pro exudes self-assurance, and knows exactly what they are doing. He or she is well-poised from the moment they walk out, and can thus command the event and the crowd from the very start.
  • Works Clean – A professional emcee knows how to run a clean event, NEVER swearing on the microphone or acting in an inappropriate/profane manner.


The professional trivia emcee must be well-practiced in the specialized craft of running game shows. It’s not something just anyone can do, no more than any other type of performance. Just because a host has done stand-up comedy or acting for years, or run pub quiz, or even provided professional emcee services (speaker introductions, etc.), doesn’t mean that he or she knows how to host a corporate or private trivia event. It’s an entirely different animal altogether, a unique form of interactive entertainment like no other.

It’s like anything else – if you want it done right, you turn to those who have done it the most number of times. The fact is, not a lot of professional emcees have actually led trivia game shows for private groups – so it’s not that easy finding these people, let alone those with LOTS of experience. But that’s my job, to identify and recruit this niche talent. The more important the event, the more critical it becomes to have a man or woman onstage who knows what they’re doing leading it.

Calm Under Pressure

Events are stressful – both planning and running them. Despite the best-laid plans, things can and do go awry. It’s inevitable, really. As such, the expert onstage must be able to handle the unexpected in a relaxed, rational way.

When you’re running the event, you’re “the guy” – meaning the client and everyone in the room is looking to you for answers on how to deal with whatever unforeseen drama has crept into the show. There’s no room for freakouts or meltdowns here, so the person on the mic has to be temperamentally fit for this, and be able to react professionally and effectively.

For this reason, I find that professional improvisers make for fantastic trivia hosts. The reason is because they have the agility to respond to whatever’s happening in real-time, and to basically just “roll with it.” Like cats, they always seem to land on their feet.

I’ll be the first to admit, being practical is NOT my strongpoint. I’m not a problem-solver, and don’t reflexively come up with solutions like others I know do (my wife, for example). However, I AM a fast learner, and tend to only make mistakes once; having emceed so many events over so many years, I’ve built up enough experiential knowledge to know how to react to pretty much any situation I’m facing while onstage.

Puts Client’s Needs First

The emcee can’t be a diva. There is no room for ego here; when we produce an event for you, the client is ALWAYS front and center, and we place the needs of you and your guests above all else.

That’s more than mere lip service, I truly mean that. I want emcees who know how to put their own needs in check. I know firsthand how easy it can be to slip into “all about me” mode when you’re handed a microphone and stride out onstage. Especially for funny people (and we’ll get into sense of humor in just a minute), there’s a tendency to want to elicit laughs ALL the time, to try and make EVERYTHING funny and make jokes nonstop.

Yeah, well that’s nice – but it’s not what the client is paying us for.

Our job isn’t to be the star of the show, but rather the facilitator of fun (which I wrote about in a recent blog post, which you can read here). That means keeping the focus on the audience, even when you’re the one in the spotlight. It’s not always an easy thing to do – after all, people who go into this line of work WANT to be in the spotlight! But that’s what the job requires. This isn’t just a performance, but rather interactive and engaging entertainment. Both my emcees and I must always, always remember that less is more (follow this link for an earlier article I wrote on this subject).

Sense of Humor

The emcee may be a professional, cool-headed, audience-centric expert, but without a sense of humor, this event is going to be a dud. The best way to keep a crowd entertained is through laughter, and as such, the best emcees are those who know how to elicit a laugh.

This is essentially public speaking, what we’re doing. In every public speaking course I’ve taken or book I’ve read, something they always say is: use humor, but ONLY if you’re funny. Have you ever seen somebody get up to give a speech or make a toast, and try to awkwardly force in some laugh lines? It’s painful.

Making a room laugh is a skill, and like any other skill it must be developed over time, I’m talking years. Stand-up comedians have the most professional experience doing this, but then again, so do improvisers (referenced above). You’ve also got folks like me, with absolutely zero background in comedy, improv, acting or similar performance, yet somehow have a knack for quick wit and making people laugh. These are qualities you want in your quizmaster, to keep the event rollicking, the atmosphere lighthearted and fun.

In Summary

Ultimately, my job is to guarantee an absolutely fantastic experience for your event attendees. One of the ways I do that – the main way, actually – is by sending an emcee who is top-notch, who has the skills and background necessary to deliver the experience I’ve promised you. That person must be unflinchingly professional, funny, charming, and know exactly what they’re doing if they are to be representing TrivWorks at your event.

I would rather cancel an event than send you somebody sub-par (fortunately, I’ve never had to do that). For me to send anyone less than a total pro would mean I am not doing my job; that I am not living up to my promise of a phenomenal group bonding experience and game show contest, and that I don’t deserve my reputation as the industry leader in team trivia. 

Click here for further reading on what separates professional trivia emcees from bar trivia hosts.

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