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How To Host A Virtual Murder Mystery Party Online with Zoom or other software

Author: Murder Mystery  Date: 29 June 2021


I wanted to say thanks for the detailed Zoom instructions on the website about how to host online - I hosted three online MMs in August and found it extremely helpful! Got another one coming up next weekend, and with each gig I’m ironing out some if the tech issues.

----Charlotte Stranzen----

I get it, you have an appetite for murdering your best buds. But in these crazy coronavirus times the government won't let you have a murder mystery party to do it. Don't let that stop you. Break the tedium of isolation by having a virtual murder mystery party online. This guide will fully explain how to host a virtual murder mystery party on Zoom or any other system. Virtual murder mystery games are a new idea born out of the pandemic but people have loved them. You can host your virtual murder mystery party free from the hassle or social distancing. Your virtual murder mystery party is here!

How To Host A Virtual Murder Mystery Party Online

What equipment do I need for a virtual murder mystery party online?

  • Mobile phone version:
    • A mobile phone.
    • Camera on the phone.
    • Strong and stable internet connection.
    • Mobile phone headphones with a microphone may be required if you don't have your own quiet space.
    • Google Chromecast can make this experience much better.
  • Laptop, tablet or desktop version:
    • A webcam either external or built into the laptop or tablet.
    • A microphone built into the webcam or on a headset.
    • Headphones or an internal or external speaker.
    • Strong and stable internet connection probably over WiFi.
  • Awesome version:
    • HDMI cable or some type of wireless connection to a TV or data projector.
    • A laptop plugged into a data projector or large screen TV via HDMI or wireless.
    • A webcam either external or built into the laptop.
    • A microphone built into the webcam or the laptop.
    • Sound through the TV or an external speaker.
    • Strong and stable internet connection probably over WiFi.

What is the best software to use for an online party?

  • Skype:
    • Pros:
      • Maximum video participants: 50
      • Form: Web browser version, phone app or a computer application
      • Team messaging: Participants can send private messages within Skype
      • Extra features: The computer app allows background blur
      • Cost: Free
    • Cons:
      • None
  • Zoom:
    • Pros:
      • Maximum video conference participants: 100
      • Cost: Free
      • Maximum of 40 minutes per session, however, each time we have used Zoom they have automatically extended the session to unlimited
      • A premium Zoom monthly membership isn’t expensive and is well worth it for the extra features (e.g. unlimited meeting time, breakout rooms and poll functions)
    • Cons:
      • Maximum of 40 minutes per session. You have to book multiple sessions for a longer party
      • Form: All users need to download software
  • Facebook Messenger:
    • Pros:
      • Maximum video conference participants 50 (only 6 faces at once)
      • Cost: Free
    • Cons:
      • None
  • Microsoft Teams:
    • Pros:
      • Maximum video conference participants 250
      • Form: Web version or a software application
    • Cons:
      • Cost: Not free although a free version is available
  • WhatsApp:
    • Pros:
      • Cost: Free
    • Cons:
      • Maximum video conference participants: 16 but voice calls to 32
      • Form: Requires an app on your computer or phone
  • Facetime:
    • Pros:
      • Maximum video conference participants: 32
    • Cons:
      • Devices: Only Apple devices

How do I get organised for my online party?

  1. Organise a presenter and a techy friend
  2. Organise your guest list
  3. Send invitations out
  4. Collect RSVPs and collate contact details
  5. Choose video conferencing software
  6. Test technology
  7. Break your guests up into teams and get them to coordinate
  8. Presenter prepares
  9. Connect and play

1. Organise a presenter and a techy friend

Presenter - You will need one main person to run and officiate the murder mystery game. Normally, we don't suggest that this is the organiser because you are usually too busy. At a virtual party however you won't be chatting or organising food for everyone so you can do it yourself. The presenter will guide the action and keep everything moving along.

Nerdy tech type - Inevitably you or some of your guests will have technology glitches. It is a good idea to nominate that friend that is great with troubleshooting technology as your tech helper. You can give out their contact so people can contact them for help. This will keep the presenter free from the challenge of tech support and they can focus on running the game.

2. Organise your guest list

At a face-to-face party you send out invites and people turn up. A virtual party is a little more difficult to coordinate, especially if you have friends in different time-zones. You will need to maintain an accurate guest list so you can coordinate everyone.

You will also need this list to sort guests into groups.

3. Send invitations out

You can do this any way you like but email is probably the easiest method. When you send out your invites, keep an eye open for bounce replies and follow up on Facebook etc. to get the latest email address for your guests.

Think about where your guests are. If you are running your virtual party with people all over the globe then the date and time of your party may not be the same in every country. You might have to list different country's dates and times so people know their local details.

Collect the following information - Contact mobile number with country code e.g. +61, how many people will attend at their location and ask for permission to share email addresses and phone numbers with other guests.

Software and hardware - Let people know that you will be using video conferencing software. Suggest that people start checking their internet connection, camera, microphone and sound to see if it is working. Ideally your guests would also get ready to connect to the TV with their laptop.

4. Collect RSVPs and collate contact details

Collect your list of attendees as your presenter will need an accurate list to work from. Keep a clear record of email addresses and mobile phone numbers for each person. Record how many people they think will be at their location on the night.

5. Choose video conferencing software

Select your video conferencing software from the list above, or use any of the hundreds of other options you may be familiar with. Learn about the software and its features early so you feel confident. Our recommendation is Skype or Zoom but they will all do an excellent job.

6. Test technology

Contact all your guests that have RSVP'd and tell them what video platform you will use. Give them instructions on how to access it and ask them to set it up. Maybe organise to have online drinks with 3 or more of your friends that are coming to the party as a test run. Test all the features and help them to understand where things like messaging etc. is located.

It would be advisable to make a quick online video call to all your guests to make sure that can access the software, connect and that their hardware works.

7. Break your guests up into teams and get them to coordinate

There is an age old problem that always exists with murder mystery parties. It is easiest if characters and teams are allocated in advance, but this has the obvious pitfalls if people don’t show up on the night, leading to uneven teams or missing central characters. If you allocate characters in advance then have an option to swap people if central characters can't make it. If you will allocated characters on the night then allow more time for this.

On the night of the party your guests will work in virtual teams. I wouldn't have teams bigger than 6 people so if 30 people are coming to your party, break your guests into 5 to 8 teams. Share the team list with all the members of each team. You will need to give them a way to communicate which is why you collected phone numbers and email addresses. It is totally up to you what information you share and how you do this.

At the party the teams will need a way that they can communicate without the rest of the party knowing. Pick a team leader for each team and they will be the goto person for that team. Team leaders should coordinate with the rest of the team and do a test run of communicating before the night. It would also be a great idea if the teams met up on a video call using the software you have chosen. This will let them iron out any issues early.

    Our suggestions on how teams can communicate:
  1. Use private messaging or break away groups within the video conference app
  2. Email
  3. Text messages
  4. Facebook Messenger
  5. WhatsApp
  6. Discord
  7. Any methods of communication you are aware of

8. Presenter prepares

As the presenter you will need to be prepared in advance so you know how you will manage the party. In your murder mystery game you will have received the Presenter's Handbook and all the game materials. You will prepare these materials to have them ready.

    The main thing the presenter will do in preparation:
  1. Read the Presenter's Handbook and write notes for yourself
  2. If you are not the party organiser, check in with them to find out about guest numbers and teams etc.
  3. Make sure you have contact details for the team leaders
  4. You need a way to share name badges, team directions, clues and props on the night. You can prepare them electronically e.g. as a pdf, or you could take a digital photo of each item. These MUST be prepared in advance.
  5. The participants will all need to wear a name badge on the night. This can be a bit tricky to coordinate. You could email name badges early but have a backup plan in case central characters can't make it on the night. The other option is to ask all the guests to have a large white name badge and a black texta so they can hand write a name badge.
  6. Sort out your technology and how you will contact guests and pass information
  7. Prepare the introduction you will deliver
  8. Decide how you will facilitate "the murder"
  9. Plan how you will manage each stage of the game
  10. Work out how you will manage the accusation sessions
  11. Plan how you will hear each team's final theories
  12. Prepare your delivery of the final story
  13. Decide how will pick a winner
  14. Finally, how will you close the game

9. Connect and play

Notes: THINGS TAKE LONGER ONLINE THAN IN REAL LIFE!! This is the most important thing I have learnt. You can’t all talk over each other or simply hand out clues, instead you need to allow extra time for bantering with guests and sharing things electronically. People get screen fatigue and are keen to book shorter events. Make sure you have toilet breaks etc. during the game.

If you want to shorten your event you could consider distributing the round 1 clues before the event. Alternatively you could split the round 2 clues and give half with round 1 and half with round 3.

Preparing clues before the event

Before the game you need to work out how you will supply clues to your guests. The clues come in PDF format and this gives you a number of options. You can share the clues via breakout rooms but only put them on the screen for a short time so people have to write them, take a photo or a screenshot etc. You could separate out the pages of the PDF and send different pages to different people. You can take photos of the screen with your phone and then SMS or email the clues. You can use any screen capture or snapshot tools you have available to break up the clues the way you want. You can type the clues into the chat box or you can read them out verbally.

Whatever you decide, you need a way, with the technology you have available to send different clues to each group. They can then share those clues with each other in their group and other groups. You want groups to share and collaborate but you don't want all groups to get all clues.

    As the presenter you will guide and coordinate the game:
  1. Log into the video conferencing software about 1 hour early to make sure everything works
  2. It is great to ask guests to log in 15-30 mins before the official party start if characters and teams are not pre-allocated
  3. Log in but have audio and video switched off (have a photo of your host character showing) rather than having to be ‘on’ in hosting mode while managing all the admin stuff
  4. Send out character and team allocations via the chat function
  5. Set up breakout rooms in advance and allocate guests to those rooms at the start of the party
  6. Guests can chat and socialise during this time (it helps to pick who will be a great victim, murderer etc.)
  7. It is handy to make team leaders (or potentially every guest) co-hosts so they can move between breakout rooms to swap clues
  8. At the start, welcome everyone and thank them for coming
  9. Make sure everyone is wearing a name badge and ask people to change their display name on the video software to their character name. Something like "Ruth Less (Sue Smith)" could work well
  10. If you have less that 15 guests don't worry about having multiple badges. Your guests can wear 1, 3 or no name badges and they will play the game exactly the same way.
  11. If you don't have too many guests, get each person to introduce their character and read out the short bio on their name badge. If you have too many guests have team leaders introduce their team
  12. Send a message out with information about the teams. You may also wish to send the team leaders contact details
  13. Remind everyone who the tech support person is if they are having technology issues
  14. Deliver your introduction
  15. Facilitate the murder
  16. Explain how this changes things e.g. "We were going to party, but now..."
  17. You can send the team directions out to all guests or just the team leaders
  18. In some software, when sending out team directions, props, clues etc. to guests via the chat function, they need to open the document before moving rooms or they won't be able to access that doc any longer
  19. Give guests time to read through the team directions
  20. Now you as the presenter read the team directions and clarify any rules
  21. Explain that this is a competition and you want to win
  22. You have the option of playing a game, holding a quiz etc. to give out clues or just sending clues directly to team leaders
  23. Team leaders now share the clues with their team
  24. Team members discuss the clues with each other
  25. Using the video software, teams should offer to swap clues with other teams and it is totally up to teams how they negotiate to do this
  26. Distributing clues via a Word Document or PDF works well, and the team leader can share screen so the team can see them. If another team’s leader drops into the breakout room, they have to be quick at hiding it! This is like the equivalent of eavesdropping at a real party.
  27. Clues are swapped
  28. You call an end to swapping and ask teams to discuss their own clues with each other
  29. Talk to each team and ask them to pick a spokesperson
  30. Coordinate each team to share an initial theory or to accuse other characters
  31. With lots of teams, you can speed up accusations by using a poll function. The poll must be set up before the meeting and could name the most common suspects for the theme.
  32. With really small groups where people are participating in couples/households, you can make each household a team and there’s no need to bother with breakout rooms as each team can simply mute themselves in the main room and discuss clues with their partner. Swapping happens via the chat function or by unmuting and asking everyone if they’d like to swap.
  33. Facilitate Prop 1. The presenter or another guest can read it, you can hold it up to the camera and/or send it around to the teams
  34. Repeat the process above with the round 2 clues and prop 3
  35. After the round 2 accusations facilitate prop 2
  36. Repeat with the round 3 clues but remind the guests that this will be the last lot of information to go out
  37. Teams have a final chance to swap clues
  38. Teams should come to a decision about the killer and what happened
  39. Each team presents their theory and identifies the murderer
  40. The presenter tells the actual story
  41. Certificates are handed out and the winner is announced
  42. The event is closed (the cameras can stay on)

So if you want a Zoom murder mystery party free from the hassles associated with coronavirus you don't need to hesitate. Your Zoom murder mystery party online will be an awesome adventure.

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