Online Tournament Guide
This page glosses over (or entirely omits) a large number of preparatory steps that apply to both in-person and online tournaments. If you haven’t previously run a tournament, feel free to ask for guidance from other coaches, your local quiz bowl association (if any), and/or NAQT itself.
These steps are presented in rough chronological order.
Far in Advance
- Think about your local quiz bowl community, the resources available to you (including this entire guide), and NAQT’s requirements. Based on these factors (and potentially others), decide how you want to run your tournament in terms of videoconferencing software, rules, and so forth.
- Take to heart our second essential concern and decide how you will handle the fact that quiz bowl takes longer online than in person. You should take it as given that you can’t run everything the same way as you could at an in-person tournament. You’ll need to start earlier, run later, spread the tournament across multiple days, eliminate breaks, shorten games (e.g., play 16 tossup-bonus cycles, or play tossups only), and/or offer fewer rounds.
- Many players report that online quiz bowl can be more tiring than in-person quiz bowl. If you are trying to decide between a longer tournament and a shorter tournament, we recommend defaulting to the shorter tournament, especially for newer hosts and participants.
- Decide whether to use NAQT’s registration system. This is not required, but it is recommended. It can save you time, maintain a public field list, send reminders to teams, generate templates for managing statistics in SQBS, and even systematically collect some data (like chaperone information) that might be overlooked. In addition, for online tournaments, having the list of teams available allows the online question system to help ensure that teams end up in the proper room. If you want to use the registration system, email firstname.lastname@example.org to have it enabled (and then you’ll need to configure your deadlines and fee information).
- Make sure your tournament announcement contains extra information relevant to online tournaments.
- Each moderator needs to create an naqt.com account to be able to access the questions. NAQT recommends having your scorekeepers and other staff create accounts as well so you can use the system to track everybody, but only the moderators and the tournament director will absolutely require an account.
Once the person has an account, add them to your tournament’s staff list:
- Go to your account homepage.
- Click “Registration System” under the name of your tournament.
- Choose the “Logistics” menu item, then the “Staff” menu item.
- You can now invite staff by entering their email address (provided that they have naqt.com accounts).
- NAQT recommends having two officials in each game room (a moderator and a scorekeeper). Experienced staff can perform both roles in an online game at acceptable speed, but it makes an enormous difference to inexperienced staff to only have to serve in a single capacity in the new environment. We know that finding staff can be difficult (and having two officials in each room can raise costs), but the benefit of the second person is greater at an online tournament.
- NAQT recommends having an extra moderator on “standby” in case of network issues. If possible, it will also be valuable to have an extra person on hand in case somebody is needed to watch a player who has exhibited suspicious behavior.
- Each moderator must have either (a) a headset or (b) a combination of headphones/earbuds and a (quality) external microphone. If your moderators can’t get access to this equipment, you should buy it for them. Order early in case there are shipping delays.
- Ideally, each scorekeeper should have the same audio equipment as a moderator. Failing that, headphones or earbuds will work.
- Direct each moderator to read the page of our guide dealing with moderator duties. They should also go to the Tutorial Tournament to practice how they will see the questions to read.
- Each scorekeeper (or moderator who will be keeping score themself) should read the page detailing scorekeeper duties. They should also check out the electronic scoresheet to see how it works.
Familiarize yourself with using Zoom to manage users and create meetings. You should also know all the basic bits of Zoom meeting functionality (like how to change your display name).
- Go to your account page and enter the online control room for your tournament. Click “Rounds” to set up the rounds and packets for your tournament.
- Make the schedule for your tournament. All schedules should clearly indicate which of the teams is “X” and which is “Y”. Here is a sample schedule showing one way this might be done.
- Determine the number of game rooms (i.e., simultaneous Zoom meetings) you’ll need for your tournament. Generally, this will be one game room for every two teams, but it could be fewer if every team isn’t playing in every round.
- One of the biggest challenges observed in NAQT’s test tournaments was efficiently communicating updates to teams. For instance, if a tournament has five preliminary rounds and then breaks to playoffs, every team needs to receive a playoff schedule. You should decide what medium you are going to use to convey this information. For instance, you could maintain a webpage, create a shared document in Google Drive, email updates to coaches, and so on. If your approach relies on having contact information, make sure you have it. (The NAQT registration system will automatically collect contact information for coaches and chaperones and send warnings to teams that have not provided it.)
Results and Statistics
As for in-person tournaments, you will need to tally results to determine the winner, playoff teams, all-stars, etc. NAQT recommends SQBS, a free, quiz bowl-specific statistics program. Scorekeepers can share their online scoresheets with your statistician, and they can enter them into SQBS. Tournaments using NAQT’s registration system can download a SQBS template with all the team and player names, and NAQT can accept the completed SQBS data file at the end of the tournament in fulfillment of most results-reporting requirements. NAQT also has a page of hints about how to use SQBS most efficiently.
Players should signal by using BuzzIn.live as a replacement for a buzzer system. You will need to decide whether your tournament can get by with the free version of BuzzIn.live or whether you want to pay for a premium key ($0.99 per room per day). NAQT recommends paying for the premium keys. You can either email the maintainer of BuzzIn.live a week in advance to make a bulk purchase, or you can purchase keys one at a time on the day of your tournament.
If you are using the premium version of BuzzIn.live, you will need to send each moderator a premium key so they will be able to create BuzzIn rooms.
- Make sure every coach, chaperone, team, and staff member has your contact information, preferably both email address and phone number. You should expect situations to arise in which a team needs to get in touch with the tournament director.
- Create a Zoom meeting to act as a game room for each moderator. This should last the entirety of the competition day. (That is, you shouldn’t create a new meeting for each game, just one for all of the games that a single moderator will be handling.)
- Collect the URLs for the game rooms (Zoom meetings) in a document that is distributed to all coaches and teams (e.g., the schedule).
- Decide whether you are going to have any “tournament-wide meetings” such as an opening meeting, an awards ceremony, a closing meeting, or anything else. If so, create those meetings and distribute the URLs to coaches, teams, and moderators.
- On the day of the tournament, make sure each moderator can see a link to the online control room for the tournament from their account homepage on the NAQT website. For question-security reasons, these links will not appear prior to the day of the tournament.
- If your moderators and scorekeepers are inexperienced with conducting an online tournament, try to arrange a short Zoom meeting in advance of the tournament to confirm that everybody can connect, understands basic Zoom functionality, and has working audio and video streams. If possible, play a few questions (from the tutorial tournament or a sample packet) to give them a sense of the flow of an online game.
- On the day of your tournament, visit the online control room for your tournament and check to see if any warnings are displayed there. If there are, address them.
- Set up a chat room in Discord, Slack, or another service and let your staff know how to access it. This will help keep staff “in the loop” with tournament news (and will make it easy for them to report problems in their game rooms to you).