In the time of COVID-19, Christmas parties will look very different from previous years! Zoom has become a verb as well as an online video conferencing tool, but it has also become a way of connecting with friends, co-workers and family when we have to be apart. If you haven’t jumped on the bandwagon yet, we suggest heading to zoom.us to get acquainted with their app.

We decided to focus on Zoom for our Christmas and Holiday virtual murder mystery parties because they have a free package that includes video sharing, audio sharing, private chat, breakout rooms and virtual backgrounds. Zoom is also the conferencing app that most people are now used to, so there’s a better chance of having all of your guests be familiar with how Zoom chats work before the Christmas party.

Before we go through all of these settings and options – make sure to read How to Host a Virtual Murder Mystery for some starter tips on hosting your party!

Create a Zoom Account

You can host a Shot In The Dark Mysteries Christmas virtual murder mystery party with a Basic (free) Zoom plan, BUT there is a 40 minutes time limit. You will definitely need more than 40 minutes for your mystery party, so you have two options:

Option 1: Upgrade to a Pro plan

Option 2: Create multiple meetings (Keep in mind that when you create and have everyone join the next meeting you’ll need to redo any backgrounds, names and breakout rooms)

Get Set Up

As the host, there are some settings that need to be enabled in your Zoom account prior to the party. Head to zoom.us and click on My Account.

My Account > Account Management > Account Settings

Enable Private Chat so that your guests can scheme with each other, or sleuth and run down their theories without divulging their theories with everyone else!

Allow the guests to rename themselves so that suspects can have the name of their character!

Allow guests to use a Virtual Background so you can really get into your mystery theme! Visit SHOT Zoom Backgrounds for FREE downloads to customize your party.

Breakout Rooms are key to the interactive investigation format that is unique to Shot In The Dark Mysteries holiday virtual murder mysteries! They allow sleuths and suspects to interact in various ‘rooms’ during questioning! More details further down on how to use the rooms during the party!

As well, In everyone’s personal Zoom profile, all guests can update their Avatar to relate to their murder mystery character!

Schedule Your Party

In your Account on zoom.us, you will go to Schedule a Meeting (aka murder mystery party!)

Most of the information is intuitive. Just remember to create multiple meetings if you have the 40 minute time limit. As well, select either Computer or Both for the audio option.

Take the link that is created and send it either with your invitations or to guests that have already RSVPed yes. Now, time to get creative with some DIY costumes!

Get This Party Started!

Today is the day for your virtual murder mystery party! Arrive online at least 15 minutes early so you can set up your background, get your audio files ready to go and help troubleshoot access for your guests.

All The Guests:

  • Change Your Name

Even if you aren’t a suspect, you can still be a fun character! Click on Participants to see the list down the side. Click on More and then Rename to enter your mysterious pseudonym.

Click on the up arrow next to the video and choose Video Settings. From there:

Now, you all know who is who! You get to be a character, but not confuse the interrogations!

  • Change Your Background

Time for a Virtual Background to really bring the mystery to life! Click on the up arrow next to the video again and select Virtual Background. If your computer doesn’t have the functionality, Zoom will require a green screen OR a solid background with uniform lighting. Play around with it to get your optimal background. Remember to visit SHOT Zoom Backgrounds. We have created some custom backgrounds to go along with our most popular mysteries!

As the Host:

  • Announce the Murder

This audio file (and PDF option) comes with the Host Materials in every Shot In The Dark Mysteries murder mystery package. You can choose to read it aloud to your guests OR share your computer audio and have it play.

To Share Your Audio:

Click on the green Share Screen Button. Go to the Advanced Tab and select Music or Computer Sound Only. Then, you can play the Announcement of Murder to all your guests!

***TIP*** Use this technique of sharing your audio to play music relevant to your murder mystery theme as people are logging in, before the investigation begins!

Breakout Rooms (Optional)

(Note: You can choose to keep everyone in the ‘main room’ and go around asking questions as a group. )

Shot In The Dark Mysteries is the original interactive, mingle mystery party! Our true-investigation style is what makes our mystery experiences so unique and fun! We have kept that format for our virtual parties.

Want to investigate without everyone hearing your questions? The Breakout Rooms give an added element of suspicion and surprise.

You will need to assign everyone at the party as a Co-Host so that they are able to move between rooms without the host having to facilitate. Make sure the Adding a Co-Host is enabled in your meeting settings. Then, at the start of the investigation, you will hover over each participant’s video, click the three dots (…) and select Make Co-Host.

When you (the host) first joins the party, you will click on Breakout Rooms and create however many you want! Once they have been created, you can rename them! Ideas include the bar, the washroom, the smoking room, the servant’s quarters etc. (depending on your mystery you can use the Floor Plan). Also, you will choose to manually assign participants.

Then, click on options:

a) Allow participants to return to the main session at any time

b) Set a timer so that breakout rooms close after a certain period of time (i.e. 60 minutes)

Following the Announcement of Murder, all of your guests will start investigating who had the motive, the means & the opportunity! They can move to any breakout room to interview suspects, or eavesdrop on other sleuths! All sleuths and suspects can return to the main room or other breakout rooms at any time. Private chats can take place now as well, adding another layer of mystery!

Once the timer goes, all the breakout rooms will close automatically and everyone will return to the main session to cast accusations!

The Big Reveal!

Now that all guests are back in the main session, it is time to cast the accusations. This can be done via chat to make it simple and to ensure no one reneges on their choice! Once everyone has picked their murderer, it can be fun to go around ask why they accused that suspect!

The Big Reveal audio file is included in the Host Materials. The audio can be shared the same way as the Announcement of Murder. Or, you can choose to read the document aloud.

That’s It, That’s All!

Time to wrap up the party and plan for the next one! We LIVE for your pictures, even your virtual mystery party pictures, and we love to see how you and your guests bring our mysteries and characters to life. Remember to take screen shots and share them with us and other hosts – we are @shotinthedarkmysteries on Instagram, Facebook and Google.