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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

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

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

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
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

Watch as ASD Vice President and Family-Member Owner, Kevin
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
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 to see our party photos and be sure to tag

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

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
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

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
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,
, and Technical Analyst, Will
. 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
Thanks to everyone who participated in our contest. Be on the look out for more
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

an engaging panel discussion,
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

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

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

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

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.

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
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!

About The Author

Jess Farren (Fowler)

Jess Farren (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

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