Murder Mystery Night Meeting—How We Did It

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Following our successful themed Murder Mystery Night meeting back in August, I have received several inquiries both within and outside our club about how we organized this meeting. In this article I will detail the process of how I planned this meeting, and a review of what went well, what didn’t go well. Hopefully these will be useful tips for any club member, or members of other toastmasters clubs, on how to pull off a successful Murder Mystery Night meeting.

A wealthy businessman has been murdered at his own dinner party in his West Vancouver mansion. The only people present were his guests, so one of them must’ve been the murderer. Who committed the crime? Meet our cast of shady characters who each have their secrets. Pick up clues from their speeches, and deduce who is the murderer!

This Thursday, Jason will host a special themed meeting—a Night Vision murder mystery night. Various suspects from the murder have been spotted in the club. They will be introducing themselves and revealing clues about the murder, while guests in the audience (and the cast themselves) will be guessing who committed the murder. It will be a night of mystery and entertainment for all.

Murder Mystery Night Introduction

Let’s start with our meeting agenda and the overall flow of the meeting. The first half of the meeting introduced the scenario and the characters in the murder mystery. The toastmaster began the evening by describing the setting of the meeting: all club members were dinner guests at the mansion of a wealthy businessman—Sir Talkalot. Sir Talkalot’s businesses included real estate, finance. In his pastime, he is also an avid collector of art. Just before dinner, he showed us his art collection on display in the gallery wing of his mansion. Afterwards he led us to the dining table, where we were seated and left to mingle between ourselves. A number of characters stood out in particular…

The Characters

Seven club members (due to time) were selected in advance to play seven different characters, each with a different back story of how they related to the victim. After the toastmaster introduced the setting, each character was asked to go on stage to introduce themselves in a 2-3 minute prepared speech. Each of these cast members was given a fabricated character profile in advance that somewhat related to their actual background, to make it easier to develop a speech from. None of the cast members knew who the murderer was to keep it entertaining for all.

  • Business Executive
    • You are a business acquaintance of the victim in the same industry (any type of your imagination). You’ve built your business empire, but the victim is a brilliant businessman, and his company has completely overtaken yours in 3 short years. If only his company would make a strategic error. His son seems incompetent. You’re sure if he took over his father’s business, you can crush him easily.
  • Victim’s Son
    • You have always relied on the wealth of your father. He gives you money to spend, provides for your needs, so there isn’t really any reason for you to seek a proper job of any kind. You enjoy gambling and womanizing. Your relationship with your father is poor. After the last big trouble you got yourself into (up to your imagination), your father threatened to disown you and cut you off from his inheritance. But if he dies naturally, then you take over his business.
    • Ultimately the clues would reveal the victim’s son was a conspirator, but he didn’t know at this point.
  • Lawyer
    • You are a partner at a prominent law firm. But your practice is shady as you help the wealthy create offshore accounts to evade taxes. Your firm was recently in the news after one of your clients was careless and leaked some evidence of your shady work. The victim is your client and wants to cut ties with your firm, and threatened to expose what you do. You cannot afford for that to happen.
    • Ultimately the clues would reveal the lawyer was the murderer, but he didn’t know at this point.
  • Real Estate Agent
    • You are a top real estate agent who helps wealthy clients acquire investment properties. People admire your great sales numbers. What they don’t know is you don’t always follow the rules to the letter. You often use grey/shady methods to “convince” the land/property owners to sell to you at below market prices. You have helped the victim acquire several properties this way. The victim discovered this and threatened to report you to the real estate board.
  • Information Technology Auditor / Consultant
    • You are an IT auditor/consultant who has been hired to check the security of the victim’s company’s computer systems that handles the company’s online transactions. You have just discovered a security hole that nobody knows about. If you just wrote and installed a piece of software on one of the computers, it would allow you take a penny from every transactions into your bank account. Nobody would ever know. The victim is so wealthy anyway. You can use this money for charity. You can be like Robin Hood.
  • Art Collector
    • You’re a wealthy art collector who frequents the auction houses to purchase art on behalf of your clients. Last month, you were bidding on a famous piece of art that has finally come on auction after 5 years (of your imagination) but you were outbid by the victim. You know the victim’s family is not into art, and most likely when the owner passes on, his art will go on auction and you’ll have another opportunity to bid for it.
    • This character profile was desigend to be a diversion from the real murderer.
  • Victim’s Wife
    • You are the wife of the victim of only 3 years. You are much younger than the victim and people always suspected that you married him for the money (you’re free to say yes or no). The past year your relationship has been deteriorating, and you often get into arguments. You’re certain a younger husband would understand your viewpoint. You know the victim has a large life insurance of which you are the beneficiary.

As you can see, clues planted in the character profiles implicated some who were involved in the murder, and some who were not to act as diversion.

The Murder!

When the meeting resumed in the second half, the toastmaster returned to announce that our dinner host had been discovered dead in the gallery wing! The toastmaster then revealed the beginning of some clues in the murder mystery. A painting that the victim just acquired recently has been stolen. The victim was choked to death. It would have required quite a bit of strength to fight and strangle the victim (this clue was meant to suggest a male murderer).

Impromptu Speeches and Secret Clues

A toastmaster meeting would not be complete without impromptu speeches. I worked them into the murder mystery by asking each of the characters to return to the stage, and deliver an impromptu 2 minute speech incorporating a secret clue I had prepared (which I handed to them on a slip of paper as they came on to the stage). Each speaker was also asked to describe who he or she thought the murderer was.

  • Business Executive
    • You saw the art collector quarreling with the owner. The art collector stormed away angrily, and the victim entered the gallery on his own.
  • Victim’s Son
    • You know your father acquired the stolen painting recently at an auction and loved that painting. He was afraid someone may steal it.
  • Lawyer
    • You recognize the realtor. She’s been in the news recently about shady practices. You saw the real estate agent bring a stack of documents for the victim to sign, but he refused.
  • Real Estate Agent
    • You picked up a fountain pen around the house. Nobody uses fountain pens much nowadays. The last time you used it was to sign a legal document.
  • Information Technology Auditor / Consultant
    • You overheard during dinner that the victim’s son told the victim to meet him in the gallery after dinner.
  • Art Collector
    • The lawyer left dinner early to make some calls with his clients. He only returned to the room after the group has finished dinner and several people have left the dining area.
  • Victim’s Wife
    • On the desk in the gallery there is a written offer from the art collector to acquire the painting from your husband. It’s written in very neat handwriting with a fountain pen. Your husband doesn’t carry a fountain pen.

For other club members who did not have a cast character (and guests—we had a couple that evening), when selected, they were also asked to deliver an impromptu speech about who they thought the murderer was given the clues that had been revealed up to that point.

It was important that each cast member incorporated the secret clue into his/her speech, because the clues together were designed to reveal the murderer.

The Chief Inspector’s Report

I tasked one of our advanced club members to be the “Table Topics Evaluator” and evaluate the impromptu speeches. He came up with the clever idea of delivering the evaluations in the style of a Chief Inspector’s Report. He commented on each speaker’s impromptu speech content delivery, and how it made the speaker seem more or less credible in the eyes of a detective. Shifty eyes? Pacing around? Definitely suspicious! His sharp-witted evaluation was the highlight of the evening.

The Reveal!

At the conclusion of the evening, the Toastmaster revealed the murderer. It was the Lawyer! Did you guess it? Don’t worry, nobody else did either 😉

So How Did It Go?

Given it was the first time we attempted a murder mystery meeting, I thought overall it went well. The prepared character introductory speeches were generally written and delivered nicely by the cast members. Some members put in alot of acting into their speech to fit the profile, some members less. Most speeches ended up quite short of the planned 2-3 minutes, however, so it should be stressed to the cast members to deliver a speech of sufficient length. During the introductory speeches, some of the cast members were also confused as to whether the victim had been murdered yet at this point (I intended the victim to only be murdered in the second half of the meeting) and came up with speeches that conflicted with the setting. This was likely due to me not explaining the meeting flow clearly to the cast members before hand, but can be easily corrected.

The impromptu speech session turned out to be more rigid than expected, as many cast members struggled to build a speech from the secret clue they were given. Many just read out the clue then tried to add some additional thoughts afterwards. Some unfortunately did not even mention the secret clue, so the logic behind the clues broke down. In hindsight it was likely a bit too complicated to require speakers to work in the secret clue, and to require all secret clues to work together to reveal the solution.

In the end, the missing clues did not seem to matter too much though, as accusations were flying everywhere—everybody accused everybody else, and that turned out to be great. How the clues were supposed to work together, or who the real intended murderer was, became secondary.

Conclusion

As a Toastmaster planning this type of meeting for the very first time, the meeting turned out quite differently than I expected, but not necessarily for the worse. We definitely had alot of fun, and it made for a very different and interesting meeting. Please feel free to take some notes and aspects from our planning, and add your own spin. I hope you have a successful Murder Mystery Night meeting as well!

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