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2018 NFDA Convention Recap: Exceeding Expectations at Higher Elevations

Oct 25, 2018

On the drive from Salt Lake City airport to the dazzling city surrounded by an ancient circle of towering monoliths, a Welcome sign greets you with a stirring message: “Life Elevated.” The words juxtaposed with the striking landscape leaves one wondering, what is it about towering canyon walls and jagged mountain peaks that encourages one to seek out the boundaries of our own limitations?

At this year’s National Funeral Directors Association’s Convention and Expo, it was not just the horizons outside that were raised to a greater level. The conversations and topics exchanged were elevated to a higher plane. While gusts of crisp, fresh mountain air blew outside; inside a burst of fresh ideas filled the convention hall.

For Team ASD, it is always exciting to be a part of the world’s largest gathering of funeral directors. We love spending quality time with our clients, longtime friends and the wonderful NFDA representatives who do such a spectacular job putting together this engaging conference. While every NFDA event leaves behind lasting memories, the quality of interactions shared this year will remain etched in our minds far into the future.

In looking back at our time in Salt Lake City, we wanted to highlight some of the unforgettable moments and memories that elevated the 2018 NFDA Convention to a higher level.

ASD’s Web Form WatchDog™ Wins NFDA Members’ Choice Award

ASD was named the winner of the 2018 NFDA Members’ Choice Award during the Opening General Session of the convention. This prestigious award is given annually to a funeral service vendor whose product or service was introduced during the previous year and represents creativity, innovation and excellence. ASD was honored to have two submissions selected as finalists this year and received the award in recognition of our Web Form WatchDog™, a new feature that allows our answering service to monitor funeral home web inquiries and immediately alert on-call directors when an urgent need is communicated.

Watch as ASD Vice President and Family-Member Owner, Kevin Czachor, accepts the 2018 NFDA Members’ Choice Award from Past President, Kenneth Cahall, at the 2018 Convention Opening General Session last week. ASD Family-Member Owner, Kathy Kelley, was also onstage during the award announcement as ASD was honored to be the only company ever recognized as a finalist by the NFDA twice in the same year.

Thank you to everyone who voted for ASD’s WebForm WatchDog™ to receive this prestigious award. We couldn’t have done it without your help and support!

Click here to learn more

More than 300 Funeral Professionals Attend ASD’s 3rd Innovation Appreciation Celebration at McCune Mansion

More than 300 funeral directors came out for our Client Cocktail Party held during the 2018 Convention. The party took place at the incomparable McCune Mansion, an early 20th century home with a storied past and 21 distinct rooms which our guests were free to explore. From the spectacular Fine Art adorning the Receiving Room to the striking wood beams decorating the ceiling of the Alfred McCune Room, the 52,000 square foot mansion provided the perfect backdrop for an unforgettable night with our clients. Whether your favorite moment was gazing at the beautiful Utah sunset from the third floor or watching the bartender pour the “ASD Blue Mortini” through our ice sculpture loge, we hope everyone who attended had a wonderful evening.

ASD’s Client Cocktail Party was thrown to thank all of our clients for voting for us to win the 2017 Innovation Award for our Suicide Telephone Operator Prevention (S.T.O.P) System . We truly appreciate your support of ASD and hope you had fun celebrating with us. So much of ASD's interaction with directors is over the phone, so events like this are very special to us because they give us a chance to interact in person with our clients and their families.

If you attended the third Innovation Appreciation Celebration, be sure to visit our Facebook album at bit.ly/asd2018nfda to see our party photos and be sure to tag yourself!

Innovation and Dedication On Display at ASD’s Booth

Here are a few photos captured at ASD’s Booth during the NFDA Expo. Be sure to visit our Facebook page to see our full album of photos taken during the convention.

Thank you so much to everyone who stopped by to visit with the ASD team at the 2018 NFDA Convention. We appreciate everyone who took the time to talk to us. If you weren’t able to attend or are curious what you’ll find at ASD’s booth during a convention, below are a few highlights:

Interactive Booth Demonstrations

At ASD, we invite our clients to contact us 24/7 if they need ever need a demo of our technical features or an explanation of a specific mobile tool. However, we understand how helpful it is to have visual aids when learning. This is why ASD’s booth includes a large television monitor connected to an iPhone, allowing funeral directors to see the ASD Mobile app in action. From this display, they are able to learn simple tracks and advanced features.

ASD’s Technical Analysts, Kristine Soderland and Will Chicola offered live demonstrations every hour and by request throughout the convention. Funeral directors watching the demo were invited to ask questions and discuss different on-call scenarios they often encounter. This gave Kristy and Will the opportunity to show just how many solutions to everyday problems ASD Mobile can solve for funeral directors. We know many funeral directors are pressed for time, which is why we are always so grateful for this opportunity to show our clients how to utilize all of the tools and features available to them.


Team ASD Goes the Extra Mile

In addition to offering interactive technical support, ASD’s booth provides an ideal setting for our team to catch up with many of our longtime clients. The convention gives our team the opportunity to demonstrate ASD’s commitment to serving each and every one of our funeral home clients with the highest level of customized service. We will often take notes from directors at our booth and inquire if there is anything we can do to make their lives a little easier when they return home. With high-speed computers located at our booth, we can even make account updates right on the convention floor and show our clients all the different ways they are free to customize their account preferences.

Attending the NFDA Convention for the first time this year was Craig Meehan who stepped into the role of ASD’s National Sales Manager in late 2017. Craig has done a superb job of representing ASD at different funeral conventions this year and explaining to funeral directors the benefits of using our funeral exclusive answering services. Before the convention began, Craig attended Selected Independent Funeral Homes’ Annual Meeting at Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort with ASD Vice President and Family-Member Owner, Kevin Czachor , and Technical Analyst, Will Chicola . After spending quality time with many Selected members, the three headed to Salt Lake City together to take part in the NFDA Habitat for Humanity volunteer day before the convention. As a reward for all that hard work, the three also enjoyed a little bit of time in the canyons hiking and mountain biking.

“I enjoyed so many fulfilling experiences and meaningful interactions during my week in Utah. From spending quality time at Snowbird with the dedicated members of Selected to working side-by-side with volunteers in the funeral profession helping to build a home for a family in need, I was able to gain a lot of insights before the convention even began,” Craig shared. “As National Sales Manager, my primary goal is to promote ASD’s incredible services and features to prospect funeral directors across the United States. However, during the NFDA Convention I discovered how rewarding it is to get to know our current clients across the country and collect so much positive feedback to share with our team. It has been an absolute pleasure to be welcomed so warmly at the conventions and conferences I have attended this year."


Congratulations to our Convention Lego Set Winners

There aren't a lot of novelty gifts out there that are made for funeral directors, which is why we love raffling off our custom-designed funeral-themed Lego sets at conventions. Congratulations to all of our NFDA Convention Lego Set winners. In total, ASD raffled off three sets during the show from the hundreds of business cards entered into the raffle. Pictured above is Jody Hanes of Wonderly Horvath Hanes Funeral Home & Crematory in Green Springs, OH who won our Lego Funeral Service set and Dwayne Thomason of Thomason Funeral Home in San Marcos, TX who won our Lego Cemetery set.

We also launched our very first Facebook Convention Contest to give funeral directors who were unable to attend the a chance to win one of our exclusive Lego sets. Congratulations to Shaina Franson of Chester C. Chidboy Funeral Home on winning our Facebook Raffle. Thanks to everyone who participated in our contest. Be on the look out for more ASD Facebook Lego giveaways in the very near future!

Funeral Professionals Take Paws to Meet Adorable Therapy Dogs

During the NFDA Expo, a familiar sound could be heard in all corners of the convention hall. No, we are not talking about that guy on the loud speaker who sounded like he was hosting a game show. It was the sound of convention attendees cooing over the adorable funeral home therapy dogs that graced NFDA with their presence this year. Whether we were petting Kermit, the first certified funeral home therapy dog in Texas who turned heads with his one brown and one blue eye, or spending a few moments with Fred, the unbelievably soft poodle with adorably large paws, Team ASD was more than happy to play the role of puparazzi. We couldn’t help capturing a few photos of all the adorable four-legged friends stealing hearts in the convention hall.

Special thanks to our client and friend, Melissa Unfred aka The Modern Mortician and her dog, Kermit for sharing an #NFDA2018 dog treat for our Public Relations Specialist, Jess Farren, to take home to her dog Comanche.

Kevin Czachor Examines Online Communication in Social Media Lounge Panel Discussion

During an engaging panel discussion, Kevin Czachor (Vice President and Family-Member Owner of ASD), Ryan Thogmartin (CEO and Owner of Disrupt Media), and Peter Richardson (Co-Owner of CFS - Consolidated Funeral Services) discussed the importance of online communication for funeral homes. The panel was filmed and broadcast on social media live by Homesteaders Life Company. We are grateful to their representatives for organizing this panel discussion and giving us an opportunity to speak about this important and timely subject.

Funeral Professionals Get Grace

“Getting Grace and it’s messaging is important, not just for funeral homes, but for everyone to hear and to live it every day.”- Kirstie Smolyk, Park Memorial Funeral Homes in Edmonton, Canada.

We couldn’t agree more with the quote above about the powerful messages found within the outstanding film, Getting Grace. The movie tells the story of a disaffected yet endearing funeral director who learns some very valuable lessons from a teenage girl with terminal cancer. Playing the role of the funeral director is actor Daniel Roebuck, whose incredible talent on screen is complemented by his warm and easy-going personality off screen.

Daniel attended the NFDA convention this year to talk to funeral directors about the film’s upcoming DVD Release ( available through Walmart on November 6 Click here to place your preorder) and an opportunity for directors to host movie screenings at their funeral home. Funeral homes can license the theatrical version of the film and work with the Getting Grace team of designers to brand and promote their community event.

“I am grateful to have been able to shine a very positive light on the funeral home profession and, in turn, on many of those who serve our community at the end stages of life,” Daniel shared.

We were so pleased to learn Daniel had read ASD’s blog post last year, which listed the many reasons why funeral directors should be excited about this impactful film. It was wonderful to spend time with a gifted actor who is so cognizant of the issues that affect funeral directors as well as the importance of portraying our profession in a positive and authentic light. Be on the look out for more coverage on our blog of Getting Grace and the upcoming DVD release.

Remembering A Life NFDA Initiatives

ASD would like to take a moment to applaud the NFDA representatives who conceived the new Remembering A Life website, film contest and PSA videos. These initiatives really capture the heart and soul of funeral service and the role of an association in supporting its members with the most up-to-date resources. The website can be used by funeral homes to give families a place to find all of the funeral planning and bereavement support information they need from a credible source. It also includes specialized areas of focus such as the new Youth and Funerals program. Additionally, NFDA members can now access the new Remembering a Life public service announcements relating to deaths that occur as a result of substance abuse or violence. These brief yet incredibly powerful videos can be shared on a funeral home’s social media or website.

Resources Available on RememberingALife.Com

The Remembering a Life film contest winners were debuted during the Opening General Session of the convention. Attendees were also able to view all of the contest submissions at the Remembering A Life area in the convention hall (you can also view them online here). This was such a wonderful idea to encourage society to really consider what it means to pay tribute to a person. It was so interesting to see the different interpretations of the filmmakers who were tasked with capturing the impact of a life in a short movie. Each film was truly unique and special. We commend the NFDA for creating this inspiring contest.

The Funeral Profession Takes A Hard Look at the Overdose Epidemic

While attending the NFDA Convention, a news story broke out that a young woman named Madelyn Ellen Linsenmeir had passed away as a result of a drug overdose. Rather than trying to conceal this information out of fear of stigma, the family published an unflinchingly honest obituary about Madelyn’s struggles, prompting the local police chief to implore others not to turn a blind eye to this life-shattering epidemic. The timing of the story coincided with multiple sessions and seminars at the NFDA convention that were devoted to preventing overdoses and supporting families that have been impacted by a substance abuse death.

Those in our profession understand that this problem is not going away. As difficult as it is to be reminded of that fact, it is also incredibly necessary. As the NFDA’s new moving PSA states, every life is worth remembering. Helping families to cope with the shock of an overdose death while giving them the support they need to honor their loved one’s life is a difficult, yet crucial responsibility that has fallen to funeral directors. The NFDA has made great strides in equipping its members with the information and tools they need to face this crisis head on.

Additionally, the association has made great efforts in bringing funeral directors together to discuss these critical issues and to share their experiences. At the NFDA Session, Every Life Deserves a Tribute, attendees were encouraged to share stories about how a tragic death has affected them personally and professionally. Speakers, Matt Baskerville, Director of Baskerville Funeral Home, and Gail Marquart, Vice President of Communications for the NFDA, did an exceptional job of initiating this important conversation by sharing their own personal and deeply affecting stories. In the coming weeks, ASD will be offering more of the insights we learned from this session as well as the session presented by the New York State Funeral Directors Association on supporting families after an overdose. Both sessions were incredibly powerful. They were packed with so many valuable insights that should be shared with everyone working in funeral service today.

Habitat for Humanity Volunteer Day

ASD was proud to be both a sponsor and participant in this year’s NFDA Convention Habitat for Humanity Volunteer Day. Our Family-Member Owner, Kevin Czachor, National Sales Manager, Craig Meehan, and Technical Analyst, Will Chicola, enjoyed volunteering their time to help a family in need achieve the dream of home ownership.


Catch You in Chi-Town

We would like to take a moment to express our appreciation to everyone who visited with the ASD Team at the 2018 NFDA Convention. Now that the convention has come and gone, the ASD team is already looking forward to next year. We are thrilled the 2019 convention will take place in Chicago, a city with so much to explore. We’re already thinking about where we might host our next Innovation Appreciation Celebration. Looking forward to discovering what the NFDA has in store. Hope to see you there!

From all of us at ASD, we thank you for another incredible NFDA Convention!



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About The Author

Jess Fowler

Jess Fowler is a Public Relations Specialist and Staff Writer who has been a part of the ASD team since 2003. Jess manages ASD's company blog and has been published in several funeral trade magazines. She has written articles on a variety of subjects including communication, business planning, technology, marketing and funeral trends. You can contact Jess directly at Jess.Fowler@myASD.com


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