Bring some mystery to your holiday party – how we hosted a virtual murder mystery party

The importance of fostering play at work

As a 100% remote workforce, gathering together as teammates after a long week of work has looked different for quite some time now. At the beginning of sheltering in place on a company-wide level, we had been hosting and experimenting with weekly virtual happy hours. We would host some friendly competitions, trivia and birthday celebrations. With the varying level of Zoom meetings and fatigue, we knew we had to take our happy hours to the next level. Cue to next-level-up engagement: planning a company-wide murder mystery party!

Collectively contributing to company culture

To break the monotony in our weekly happy hours, our People Operations team decided to reassess and move to every other week with more intentionality. As a result of the change in cadence and flow, we had more time to involve other employees and collectively set up our first virtual murder mystery party.

The first task at hand was our casting call! Our company culture at Poll Everywhere would not be what it is if we did not have the teammates that we have. These folks are committed to not only working on a product that is aiming to make presentations more inclusive, but also work alongside teammates who want to have memorable experiences together. As we continued to have  virtual happy hours during the pandemic, we learned our people had a multitude of talent across teams. The murder mystery script was able to guide the event planners and cast, while still leaving enough room for everyone to tap into their creative side however they wanted.

Despite being completely virtual, we made sure that our murder mystery party had drama, music and suspense!  Across our customer support, customer success, engineering, design, marketing, and sales teams we were able to put together a fun-filled hour of mystery.

  • 7 actors and actresses had the autonomy to make their character come to life with drama, shocking revelations and many impersonations
  • 3 narrators guided us through the plot and clues
  • 1 in house DJ to make sure we had the mystery party ambiance
  • An audience of 15+ coworkers to cheer them on as they watched the plot unravel
  • A set of virtual backgrounds to keep a collective story movement among the characters
  • A Poll Everywhere Q&A activity for guessing the identity of the murderer

Preparing for your party!

To make the most of a murder mystery party, here are some tips and tricks we learned along the way:

1. Once you pick a date with your hosts, cast and DJ (if you are going to have one) make sure to schedule two to three meetings in between the weeks of the show!

  • Walk your hosts through the script and character background information
  • Answer any FAQs the cast may have and have them introduce themselves to each other in character. Remember, anyone could be the murderer!
  • Conduct a sound and tech check! Can everyone hear sounds over Zoom and listen for their cue?

2. Build suspense across the entire company. Hype up the party!

  • We created a character map to show how each character was connected to one another, for the cast members & the company at large.
  • Announce the event at your company-wide meeting, highlighting the details – What, who, when, where, how

3. Sneak Peeks the week of!

  • At your company-wide stand-ups, have 3-4 actors introduce themselves briefly in character to leave the audience curious about the drama. We spread it out across two days.

Times are hard for everyone and the most important thing about this event is to have fun! But do not think you need to do this alone. Creating a memorable engagement event does not have to cost a fortune. Share your idea with teammates and start planning early! You never know who you may inspire to join in on curating an awesome holiday event, fostering that company culture you’re hoping for.