Jackie Wu is a sophomore at Carnegie Mellon University and president of the CMU quizbowl team. A Pennsylvania native, she is a blog contributor for the Greater Pennsylvania Quizbowl (GPQB) website and served as PACE’s Vice President of Outreach last year. ACF representative Olivia Lamberti spoke with her about her experience with tournament direction and online outreach.
OL: How has your involvement in quizbowl changed since high school?
JW: For now at least, I’m the president of the CMU club, and my focus right now, with my other commitments in college, has shifted from playing to organizational stuff. I’ve gotten more into directing tournaments and staffing nearby events.
OL: GPQB is one of the more successful state quizbowl organizations. What leads to that success?
JW: Part of it is that GPQB is not a regulatory body; I know that when it was founded it was meant to help scattered local efforts become consolidated and help existing tournament hosts along. The founders, Chris [Chiego] and Ben [Herman], have also been very active the entire time, and have been very dedicated to producing a lot of information consistently. I know a lot of other quizbowl organizations die off if there’s one dedicated person who gets busy or leaves or graduates. We’ve been lucky.
I know a lot of other quizbowl organizations die off if there’s one dedicated person who gets busy or leaves or graduates. We’ve been lucky.
OL: How did you get started with tournament directing? Was GPQB helpful in that process?
JW: When my high school hosted our first tournament my junior year, I reached out to GPQB and they gave me a ton of advice. They offered to round up local volunteers and stuff. It was kind of intimidating, but it was great that there were a lot of people in the community who were willing to help out and give advice on how to do things.
OL: What advice do you have for people new to tournament directing?
JW: A lot of tournament directing is preparing. You need to have an idea of what your circuit is like. Know who your customer is -— you kind of just have to adapt to where you’re hosting the tournament. And be really willing to put in that time to organize everything beforehand. If you’re directing a tournament, that’s a commitment to the community: schools are paying money to come and play. You have to give them a good product.
OL: What have you learned from quizbowl tournament direction?
JW: It definitely helps a lot with leadership skills. Also, working with other people and reaching out to make new connections, especially older mentors. That’s a lot of what the quizbowl community is based on. Everything that goes into tournament directing is basically an event planning skill that I think would be useful in planning anything.
When my high school hosted our first tournament my junior year, I reached out to GPQB and they gave me a ton of advice…It was kind of intimidating, but it was great that there were a lot of people in the community who were willing to help out and give advice on how to do things.
OL: How about the opposite -— what outside lessons have you brought to quizbowl? Has any of your college curriculum been useful in a quizbowl context?
JW: Because my major is business, a lot of it helps with the operational side of quizbowl. I’m taking communications courses for my major that focus on written communication skills, like how to write professional-sounding emails and what people want to get out of emails and memos. I know I’ve been keeping that in mind when writing logistical emails and applying the things I’m learning in the business curriculum to how quizbowl operates.
OL: What are some of the emailing skills you’ve learned?
JW: A lot of it is things that sound like common sense but that a lot of us forget sometimes. You have to be aware that the coaches who get these emails are probably teachers who receive tons of emails a day. If you have a vague sounding or unimportant-looking email going into their inbox, they might ignore it. You need to make sure that you’re putting action-oriented things into your subject line and email and make sure that’s what readers are remembering from it. If you need a contact phone number, and you want them to reply with that, make sure they know that’s what they’re getting out of this email.
OL: How does social media play a role in your quizbowl communications?
JW: One thing I think about a bunch is the role of social media in quizbowl outreach. A couple of years ago, I made an Instagram for GPQB, and I know GPQB has had a Twitter for the past four or five years. Having something on social media where a lot of high schoolers are and being open to using those sort of channels to not only do direct outreach but also increase the legitimacy of quizbowl as an activity is something that I feel we could be paying more attention to. Not having a well put together social media page isn’t necessarily hurting you, but having one would certainly help.
Quizbowlers underestimate how cool quizbowl is. We downplay how much we enjoy doing it and just say it’s nerdy…Sharing how much fun you have and how much you learn playing quizbowl might be something that spurs [new] people to go to a tournament.
OL: What advice do you have for quizbowlers hoping to use social media for outreach?
JW: Make sure that you’re aware of what people are seeing and what quizbowl looks like to outsiders. On the GPQB Twitter, we try to maintain a really professional tone with correct grammar. If we’re tweeting at school administrators, we consider what resources and links we want to include. Know who your audience is. If your goal is to do outreach or increase awareness, you want to project a good image of quizbowl.
OL: How do you cultivate that positive image of quizbowl?
JW: Quizbowlers underestimate how cool quizbowl is. We downplay how much we enjoy doing it and just say it’s nerdy. A lot of people who are interested in less nerdy-sounding things are kids who would be interested in learning things through quizbowl. Sharing how much fun you have and how much you learn playing quizbowl might be something that spurs those people to go to a tournament.