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NFDA 2019: Highlights from the Convention

Nov 08, 2019

It’s been over a week since the official commencement of this year’s NFDA Convention in Chicago and we are still reeling from all of the excitement and stimulation of the largest gathering of funeral directors in the world. The memories made in the Windy City remain indelible in our minds as we look back on the quality time we spent with our clients, longtime friends and the wonderful NFDA representatives who do such a spectacular job putting together this engaging conference.

For those that work in funeral service, the NFDA Convention is both a long-awaited reunion and a wellspring of inspiration for the year ahead. Between the hugs and group selfies, you can see fresh ideas and sparks of inspiration circulating among colleagues. For the ASD team, it is always exciting to watch old friends coming together while new trends are debated and analyzed.

Team ASD at the 2019 NFDA Convention. From the left: Operations Supervisor, Vianny Adames; Project Director, Lauren Kress; Technical Analyst, Will Chicola, Financial Administrator, Carla Jones; Sales Office Manager, Stephanie Bradford; Client Solutions Specialist, Ayanda Sithole; Vice President and Family-Member Owner, Marty Czachor Jr.; Family-Member Owner and Treasurer, Kathy Kelley; ASD Intern, Joseph Kelley; Family-Member Owner and Vice President, Kevin Czachor; Lead Creative Designer, Juan Silva; Financial Planning Analyst, Melissa Kelley; Client Solutions Supervisor, Sherry Martin; Public Relations Specialist, Jessica Farren; Strategic Account Manager, Susan Daleandro; Technical Analyst, Kristine Soderland and National Sales Manager, Craig Meehan.

Below are a few of our highlights and favorite moments from NFDA 2019.

ASD’s 4th Innovation Appreciation Celebration

More than 400 funeral directors spent the night on top of the town with us during ASD’s Client Cocktail Party held during the 2019 Convention. The party took place at the sky-high Mid America Club, the only club in Chicago that offers panoramic views of the entire city skyline. From the unrivaled outlooks of the city, to the unforgettable piano singalong to the rousing games of shuffleboard, The Mid-America Club provided an incredible cocktail party atmosphere like no other.

“ASD’s Client Cocktail Party was thrown to thank all of our clients for voting for us to win the 2018 NFDA Innovation Award for our Web Form WatchDog™ feature. We truly appreciate their support of ASD and hope everyone who attended had fun celebrating with us,”said ASD Family-Member Owner, Kathy Kelley. “With this being our fourth Innovation Appreciation Celebration, it was important to find a venue that reflected how much we value the support of our clients. We feel so fortunate to serve some of the kindest, most hardworking people you will ever meet and wanted to give back to our clients by providing an opportunity for everyone to come together for a memorable evening during the NFDA Convention.”

If you attended the 4th Innovation Appreciation Celebration, be sure to visit our Facebook album at to see our party photos and be sure to tag yourself!

Innovation and Dedication on Display at ASD’s Booth

With every convention we attend, our goal is always focused on making new friends and strengthening our existing relationships. We place a high value on the interactions we share with funeral professionals at our booth and always look forward to an opportunity to reconnect. We gain so much from these exchanges. Many of our company’s greatest innovations have originated from the conversations we have with convention attendees about the communication solutions they need to better serve families.

The number one question we get asked at the NFDA convention is, “What’s new?” We did live demos every day to showcase our latest solutions. Many ASD clients enabled our new MobileFH® Texting right from our booth after learning more about this valuable and convenient mobile tool. Others were delighted to learn that ASD already provided a feature that could resolve a common communication problem they’ve encountered. Without a doubt, our favorite convention moments are when we get to see a look of joy on a client’s face when they hear us say, “Yes, we can absolutely do that! Let me show you how.”

Thank you so much to everyone who stopped by to visit with the ASD team at the 2019 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, watch our slideshow video below or click here to access our full album of convention photos on Facebook.

Congratulations to our 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. This year, we debuted our new Lego Embalming Room and seeing the reactions of convention attendees was truly priceless. 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 Gino Lustinelli from Buranich Funeral Home in Camillus, NY who won our Lego Hearse and Lisa Devereau of Howden-Kennedy Funeral Home in Seattle, WA who won our Lego Cemetery set. (Note: the winner of our Lego Embalming Room wishes to remain a mystery as they plan to surprise their staff with the set at an upcoming event. We wish we could be a Lego brick in the room when that surprise gift is unveiled!)

ASD also hosted a Fall Photo Contest through our Facebook page to give funeral directors who were unable to attend the convention a chance to win our new Embalming Room Set. Congratulations to Melissa Dawson of Indiana Funeral Care who was the pick of the patch! We loved that the funeral home team carved out some fun time this season to create this awesome pumpkin collection. Thanks to everyone who participated in our contest and be on the lookout for more ASD Facebook Lego giveaways in the very near future!

ASD’s 3rd Generation Play It Forward

One of the most inspirational sights you can see at the NFDA Convention are multi-generational funeral home teams. It’s so interesting to see firsthand how different generations approach their work in funeral service while continuing to support one other. Teaching children about the business from a young age gives them an understanding of both the benefits and challenges of working with your family. Like our clients, ASD is committed to preserving our business for future generations. At this year’s NFDA Convention, third generation ASD employees, Melissa and Joseph Kelley, exhibited together at our booth for the first time.

Recently, Melissa and Joey have joined their mother, Family-Member Owner & Treasurer, Kathy Kelley, in the office. Both Melissa and Joey have taken on roles at ASD and have been tasked with different responsibilities. As an ASD Intern, Joey has helped out with everything from building construction projects to assisting the Finance team with office duties and is currently attending Mortuary Science school while holding a second internship at a local funeral home. Melissa previously worked at ASD as a Data Entry Analyst before earning her Marketing Management degree and gaining experience working for other B2B companies. She is currently studying to receive her Master’s degree while working at ASD as a Financial Planning Analyst.

Both Melissa and Joey have attended funeral conventions and conferences in the past, but this was the first time they both joined Kathy for NFDA which made the convention extra special for the Kelley family. In addition to being wonderful assets at our booth, Melissa and Joey were also the convention paddle masters. Their Ping Pong skills earned them the 1st and 2nd place prize in NFDA’s Funeral Professionals Under 40 Party.

NFDA Live Webcasts Bring the Convention to You

This year’s convention included an innovative new addition: the NFDA Live area featuring Gabe Schauf, host of NFDA’s podcast, A Brush with Death, interviewing convention staff, speakers, attendees and exhibitors about everything from legislative advocacy, to therapy dogs, to important non-profits. In total, 29 interviews were recorded and live streamed on social media, making it possible for those back home to still keep up with all of the current trends being discussed at the convention. We loved discovering the videos after we returned from Chicago because it felt like a wonderful continuation of such an enlightening event.

Click here to view more videos from the NFDA Convention

Alliance of Hope for Suicide Loss Survivors Exhibits Lifesaving Resource Website

One of the most impactful conversations we had this year at the NFDA Convention was with the founders of the Alliance of Hope for Suicide Loss Survivors. We learned a great deal from talking to Heather and her mother, Ronnie, about how they became involved with this cause. It was truly moving to hear how they took the grief they experienced as suicide loss survivors and channeled it into creating a truly lifesaving resource.

We are passionate about helping Alliance of Hope share information about their mission to support and connect families who have been impacted by a suicide. At the convention, we saw firsthand the comments coming in real-time on their website forums from people stating how much the Alliance's resources have helped them. They are truly wonderful people doing incredible work to help others. Click here to visit their website to learn more.

Funeral directors visiting the Alliance of Hope booth to learn more about this valuable resource they can recommend to families devasted by a suicide loss.

Therapy Dogs Provide Pawfect Convention Companions

There were so many adorable four-legged friends walking around the convention hall or playing at the Paws for Pause booth this year. Team ASD was more than happy to play the role of puparazzi. We couldn’t help capturing a few photos of all the sweet pups stealing hearts in the convention hall.

Therapy dogs were a big topic this year, with Funeral Director, Mark Krause, and his therapy dog, Benny, holding an educational seminar and NFDA Live! session about the benefits they offer. Paws for Pause also held an information session at the NFDA Tailgate. While we were hanging out at their booth, we heard a number of directors whose tails were wagging over the prospect of adopting a therapy dog for their funeral home. We’re a little surprised that none of these too-cute-for-words puppies didn’t get smuggled out of the convention hall.

NFDA Debuts Powerful New PSA Videos

The NFDA Remembering A Life website was created to give families a place to find all of the funeral planning and bereavement support information they need from a credible source. One of the many resources found on the site are a series of public service announcements. 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. NFDA members can share these brief yet incredibly powerful videos on a funeral home’s social media or website.

From the NFDA YouTube page: “As funeral professionals, you know the value a funeral can provide to families as they begin the grief journey following the death of a loved one. You also know the value you provide in creating a meaningful experience. It can, however, sometimes be difficult to express this to a family. Let this PSA do the talking for you. Thoughtful words and imagery beautifully communicate the healing power of funerals and the important role you, as a funeral professional, play in guiding families through the process.”

From the NFDA YouTube page: “Honoring a Life Lost to Overdose” acknowledges that losing a loved one to addiction and overdose hurts terribly. It encourages people to understand that while they likely have many questions, but not many answers, coming together with family and friends to honor the life of their loved one can help them begin their grief journey.

See you in the Big Easy!

We would like to take a moment to express our appreciation to everyone who visited with the ASD Team at the 2019 NFDA Convention in Chicago. Now that the convention has come and gone, the ASD team is already thinking about next year. We are so looking forward for the convention’s return to New Orleans, one of the most vibrant and excited cities in the world. We can’t wait to discover what the NFDA 2020 has in store. Hope to see everyone 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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