How to Host a Public Murder Mystery Dinner

Murder Mystery Guide for Venues

A Step by Step Guide to Planning A Successful Murder Mystery Dinner Event

Smiling audience at company Christmas party murder mystery dinner

Choose your date

  • We recommend you choose a date at least a month and a half out.

  • If this is your first time doing an event of this kind, you will need some time to produce your marketing materials and get the word out in your local community.

  • Choose Friday or Saturday dates at first. Once your event is successfully established, you can experiment with other nights of the week.

  • If you already have established in the community that you have regular, well attended public events and you think your venue can pull a crowd on a weeknight, go for it!

Contract your entertainment

Way back when, I worked for a venue planning their public events. In my own experience, I remember booking a balloon twister for a festival I was organizing. They only charged $125 for the whole day and I couldn't believe my luck! But when they arrived, I realized my mistake. I'll just say their appearance and demeanor were less than professional when dealing with my festival patrons and their children. I was embarrassed but I learned a valuable lesson. From then on, I made sure I vetted my vendors.
Leslie Franklin
Owner, Jest Murder Mystery Co.
  • Always book true professionals to perform whatever service you are looking for at your venue.

  • Some vendors may be cheap but then they arrive they may embarrass your venue with their lack of professionalism.  It could be unprofessional dress, hygiene, poor behavior or sometimes they may never arrive at all. You may pay a little more for a truly professional entertainer but it will be worth it in extra stars in your Google Reviews and repeat customers down the road.

  • Be sure to have your contract signed, deposit paid and confirmation from your entertainment prior to advertising your event date.

Calculate your ticket price

  • Consider your area and what you think people would pay for a ticket to dinner and a show.

  • Think of what you would need to charge for dinner to cover your staffing costs and food costs.  Then take what’s left and apply it to your entertainment fee to figure out how many tickets you need to sell in order to break even.

The Lemp Mansion (located in Downtown St. Louis) charges $65.95 plus taxes and ticketing fees per ticket.  Where as Pere Marquette Lodge (located 1 hour outside of St. Louis in a rural location) charges $50 per ticket inclusive. 

Create your event description

  • Write-up an event description with your timeline, entertainment description and menu.

  • Have these details ironed out before you start marketing. This will save you much question answering from your guests and you will sell more tickets if people know exactly what they are getting.

  • Make it sound fun!

Call a meeting

  • Give all booking information to your front of house personnel.

  • Make sure they know the event description and can communicate it to your customers.

At Pere Marquette Lodge (has been booking Jest since 2007), information binders are created for front desk staff to reference as guests have questions.

Promote your event

Immediately:

  • Publish your event description information on your own website in a prominent location.

  • Setup online ticket sales right now! Online ticket sales are such an excellent tool. You can pass any processing cost onto the customer and your patrons will love how easy it will be for them to book tickets to your event. This really works and you will sell more seats than by taking reservations of the phone alone.

  • If you take reservations over the phone, create a spreadsheet to stay organized and keep track of your head count.

  • Write up a quick press release and distribute it to all local newspapers, television stations, radio stations, blogs, etc. It’s really no big deal and free press is easier to get than you think.

  • Here’s an example that was published by local media! For Free!

  • Submit to as many local online event calendars as possible. This is a free tool that will greatly increase the reach of your event. Just search “upcoming events in my area” in your web browser. The calendars that show up at the top are good places to start listing your event. Usually, it’s free to list an event and only takes a few minutes. Be sure to link back to your website or to the event listing on Jest’s website so your guests can get all the info they could possibly want.

  • Create flyer to display in your business and online. The more places you can promote your event the better.

 

The week before your event:

  • Push your event in social media to encourage last minute ticket sales.

  • Let your kitchen or caterer and Jest know about how many guests you are expecting the week prior to your event.  This way, we can ensure that there will be plenty of supplies!

Walker’s Bluff (booking Jest since 2013) has an upcoming events link in their main navigation so interested guests can easily find these and other events they host.

 

 

 

The Lemp Mansion (booking Jest since 2006) moved from phone only reservations to selling tickets online. This is what Patty Pointer at the Lemp Mansion has to say about their experience. “Ticket sales have increased 15-20% on Fridays and 25-35% on Saturdays, not to mention reservations for future dates are up 55-60%. It seems that you really need to sell them the tickets when they are looking/thinking about it.”

 

 

Eckerts (has been booking Jest since 2009) puts an 8.5 x 11 inch flyer promoting their upcoming events in all of their bathroom stalls. Brilliant, right?

 

 

 

Social Media Post Example

The day of your event

  • Combine phone & online ticket lists

  • Check reservations against ticket list and look for inconsistencies

  • Accommodate seating requests

  • Create room layout with table numbers and give to staff to setup

  • Assign tables and build in extra tables for mishaps

  • Approve table setup

  • When your entertainment arrives confirm your timeline and expectations with them

  • Now it’s time to book your next show!
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