How to win on game shows

Before he was on Mad as Hell, Stephen Hall was a Temptation champ -and he has some contestant tips to share.


What does it take to win a game show?

Just ask writer / performer Stephen Hall. He’s well known for his appearances on Mad as Hell but he also has a celebrated past as a quiz show champ.

Hall won $672,357 in cash and prizes on Temptation in 2005. A year later he won Australia’s Brainiest Quiz Master pitting 9 former quiz show winners, including winners from Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, against one another.

He’s also been a game show researcher, question writer, adjudicator and producer on various shows including The Rich List, The Einstein Factor, Deal or No Deal, Spicks and Specks, Shafted, The ConTest and more.

But it also came after failed attempts at Sale of the Century -so persistence pays off!

“I do remember going to the Channel 9 canteen for lunch and having a very average steak with black bean sauce and rice. It was not good food. I also had a couple of coffees, in the belief that maybe a bit of caffeine would help what was about to come,” he recalls of Temptation nerves.

“And I remember pacing up and down out the back of Channel 9 while I waited to digest all that, and for the fateful third game to begin. I didn’t mix with other contestants, I just wanted to be alone, and collect my thoughts. I knew exactly how many questions were asked in the average game of Temptation. I remember thinking ‘Well, in 44 questions from now, it’ll all be over – the race will have been run and won.'”

Through his blog howtowingameshows.com he has now released an e-book, interviewing winners, hosts and question writers, tips on how to get on the show, the studio experience, and more.

Reprinted with permission, here are some of his tips if you fancy yourself as a quiz show contestant:

– Learn to think like a Game Show Question Writer – it’s a good idea to write your own questions, if you’re not doing it already. (I had been, as part of the pub trivia nights I ran.)

– Record the show, and watch it back, playing against the contestants in the show. If it’s a buzzer-based show, use the Pause button on your remote as a buzzer. Drawing up your own scoresheets and filling them out as you go may seem a tad obsessive, but it worked for me!

– During the game, always focus on what’s coming up; don’t beat yourself up over that question you just got wrong. I distilled this into my own mantra, which I repeated (silently) to myself whenever I did get a question wrong: “I know the next one, I know the next one, I know the next one”.

– Listen carefully to your opponents in any pre-game (or even mid-game) small talk you may have with them. Do they have a defeatist attitude? Have they done no homework? Learn to read those signs.

– In a quiz show, during the game, it can be helpful to focus intently on the host’s mouth as he or she asks the questions.

– Watch the show every chance you get – all the information in it (including recent questions / games they’ve used) will sink into your subconscious…

– Build yourself up, mentally – give yourself an aural diet of positive, upbeat empowering music.

– Write a positive self-talk document for yourself and refer to it – and read it aloud to yourself – repeatedly.

You can check out more here.

3 Responses

  1. I auditioned for Hot Seat. What an eye opener. As part of the audition process they ask you “What are your strong subjects/weak subjects”. Tell them the truth about your weak subjects? Hah. That’s the subject you will get for your million dollar question. They always have equal numbers of men/women and old/middle/young. They told me as an older male the chances of me getting on were minuscule as we were over-represented in applicants. If I had worn a skirt I would have been on the next night as they don’t get many older women applicants.

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