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NFDA 2021: Reunited and It Feels So Good!

Oct 12, 2021

For the past 20 months, the funeral service community has not taken its foot off the gas pedal. For days on end, the mantra for so many of you has been go, go, go, with no option of stopping. This month, funeral professionals from every corner of the country will gather together to finally take a pause and reconnect with one another. For so many, this event is so much more than a professional convention. It is an opportunity for funeral directors to pull over to the side of the road, take a break, and reflect back on the many lessons and challenges of the past two years.

Normally, before the NFDA Convention takes place, ASD will publish a comprehensive guide to all of the events, attractions and educational sessions you won’t want to miss. First, we wanted to take a moment to acknowledge the significance of this year’s convention and how vital it is for inspiring camaraderie and fellowship between funeral professionals. The importance of this was underscored by last year’s virtual convention, which offered plentiful educational opportunities but lacked the social support and companionship our profession has greatly needed.

Next week, those crucial conversations and interactions will finally take place which will do more to help heal our profession than any party, tour or speech. Simply coming together in person to bond over shared experiences is the biggest draw of the 2021 NFDA Convention. It’s been a long road to get here and we are so glad to be able to join you on it.

2021 NFDA Convention Guide

ASD is proud to be an official sponsor of the NFDA Convention and Expo because we understand how vital it is to bring funeral professionals from around the world together to interact and share ideas. It is a truly special week combining fun and sightseeing with enlightening educational sessions and networking opportunities. We’re here to help you prepare for your trip to make the most of your time in Music City, U.S.A. Explore our list below and please share in the comments which attraction or event you are most looking forward to this year.

Discover the Latest Innovations in the Expo Hall

With hundreds of exhibitors in attendance, the NFDA Expo Hall is the ideal place to learn about all of the most current funeral home products and services. Strolling through the tradeshow floor, you can load up on free gifts, enter to win exciting prizes and explore the latest innovations created for the funeral profession. Every funeral-related product, service or niche idea you can think of has a place in the sprawling convention hall; a room brimming with people whose sole drive is to help funeral professionals provide meaningful experiences to the families they serve.

While last year’s Expo Hall may have been virtual, this year’s in-person convention provides the perfect opportunity to see the newest funeral home merchandise and technology in person while reconnecting with your current vendors to learn what new offerings they may have added over the past two years. You can visit the Expo Hall on Monday, October 18 from 12p-5p, Tuesday, October 19 from 12p-5p and Wednesday, October 20 from 9a-12p.

While you’re exploring the NFDA Expo Hall, we hope you’ll take some time to visit with the ASD Team at Booth #1745. The convention gives us 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. ASD’s booth also includes a large television monitor connected to an iPhone, allowing funeral professionals in attendance to see our ASD Mobile app in action and request a live tutorial of specific features.

You can also charge your cell phone at our booth, grab one of our FREE giveaways, and of course you can’t visit ASD’s booth without checking out our now famous Funeral-Themed Lego Sets. We will have our popular Embalming Room, Cemetery, and Funeral Service sets on display. ASD will be raffling off one of our sets each day of the show. We can’t wait to find out who this year’s lucky winners will be.

Get Inspired at NFDA Events

Welcome Party with Runaway June
Sun, October 17, 5:30p-7:30p

Slip on your cowboy boots and get ready for a lively evening catching up with all your colleagues while enjoying some awesome tunes from country billboard artist, Runaway June. This can’t-miss street party will also feature appetizers and a cash bar, but the main event of course will be spending time in person with old friends. Reunited and it feels so good!

The ASD Team enjoying the NFDA Welcome Party in 2019

Opening General Session
Monday, October 18, 9:45a-11:45a

The Opening General Session marks the official start to the NFDA Convention and celebrates the recent achievements of the association. After the pandemic year, we are especially eager to hear about the NFDA’s recent developments and latest initiatives. We also can’t wait to find out which one of our fellow vendors will be recognized with this year’s NFDA Innovation Award, a truly incredible honor that we are proud to share.

This year’s keynote speaker, Duncan Wardle, Founder of Innov8, also has the funeral profession buzzing. We’re looking forward to hearing this renowned speaker discuss the role of creativity and innovation in business. Leaning on 25 years with the Walt Disney Company, most recently as Head of Innovation & Creativity, Wardle will share case studies from his time at Disney. In addition, he offers series of unique design thinking, creative behaviors, and innovation tools that everyone can use to “Think Different” and solve real challenges in the marketplace.

All-Star Recognition Ceremony
Monday, October 18, 4:30p-5:30p

Celebrate the achievements of your colleagues! This event recognizes funeral professionals who demonstrated excellent service or achieved advanced certifications from the NFDA. Congratulations to all of our amazing clients who were recognized with the Pursuit of Excellence Award this year! Thank you for all you do to support and help families.

Service of Remembrance
Tuesday, October 19, 11a-12p

The Service of Remembrance honors the memory and legacy of funeral professionals we have recently lost. This year’s ceremony feels especially pivotal as it will recognize the essential role that funeral directors played during the pandemic. From putting their own lives at risk to having to shepherd families through such unimaginably dark days, the heroic acts of funeral professionals throughout these difficult times must never be forgotten.

Closing Celebration at Wildhorse Saloon
Wednesday, October 20, 6p-9p

Stick around for the NFDA Closing Party at Wildhorse Saloon, which is sure to be unforgettable this year. This famed Nashville restaurant and live music venue offers breathtaking views of the Cumberland River. Bring your dancing boots because the Wildhorse also boasts of housing Nashville’s largest dance floor.

Learn from Convention Speakers about Issues Impacting Our Profession

Every year, NFDA Convention attendees fill the convention seminar rooms and auditoriums to hear thought leaders discuss the latest issues impacting the funeral service profession. The NFDA has done a superb job of finding knowledgeable experts to address funeral professionals on a wide range of topics. From business operations, to professional skills, to legal considerations, each session explores a different aspect of working in funeral service.

This year’s full lineup of seminars, workshops and conversation cafes include timely and highly relevant subjects, with many sessions focused on different pandemic challenges faced by funeral professionals. While it was difficult to narrow it down, below are a few of the speakers and subjects that stood out to us as can’t-miss convention sessions. It’s important to remember there may be a specific topic not on this list that would be especially beneficial for your funeral home. Be sure to check the NFDA’s full lineup of education sessions to decide what subjects would be most valuable for you and your funeral home staff.

No Time to Cry

Speaker: Ruthann Brown Disotell, CEO, Oaktags, LLC

Time: Sun, October 17, 11:30a-12:30p

Just about every person who walks on this earth must confront a major tragedy at some point in their lives. Grief triggers are abundant for anyone who has ever lost a loved one, but funeral directors, those painful memories often resurface on a daily basis due to the nature of their work. Rather than being able to let out those feelings of grief, funeral directors must often push aside their own personal tragedies in order to focus on the families they are serving. In this session, speaker Ruthann Brown Disotell will examine the very different grief of an undertaker and discuss coping strategies.

The Forgotten Mourners

Speaker: Marc Markell, Ph.D., CT, Professor, St. Cloud State University& Kathryn Markell, Ph.D., Professor, Anoka-Ramsey Community College

Time: Sun, October 17, 1:15-2:15p

How do you support children who are grieving? How can you involve kids in a funeral service? What resources can funeral professionals use to better serve families with grieving children? These important questions will be examined in this session which is focused on how funeral professionals can help children who have been impacted by loss.

How to Navigate Digital Remains
Speaker: Jarred Harrington, CFSP, Alden-Harrington Funeral Home
Time: Sun, October 17, 2:30p-3:30p

After a death, digital remains become an online memorial that tells a person’s life story for generations to come. In this timely, technology-focused session, speaker Jarred Harrington will explain how to navigate the digital world and what is left behind online following a death. Funeral directors will learn important takeaways they can share with families, including how to use social media to notify networks, assign the rights to digital property, or delete a digital existence.

How to Get the Customer Experience Right Post-Pandemic
Speakers: Georganne Bender and Richard Kizer, Partners, Kizer & Bender Speaking!
Time: Mon, October 18, 7:30a-9:30a

This marketing-focused session from consumer anthropologists Kizer & Bender will examine generational differences between funeral home consumers and offer tips on how to effectively serve different needs. Learn how to connect online with families, personalize the customer experience and understand the latest trends that impact your funeral home.

*Special Engagement*

Lessons on Embracing Change and Opportunities for Growth
Speakers: Whitney Johnson, CEO, WLJ Advisors, Author, Personal Disruption Expert
Time: Tues, October 19, 8:30a-9:30a

From the NFDA website: “We didn’t make a conscious choice to disrupt our lives; circumstances, like the pandemic, made it for us. While true disruption can happen anytime, we must learn to control disorder and build momentum along an S Curve of Learning™. The S Curve leverages the Seven-point Personal Disruption Framework™, representing a cycle of maturity. Convention attendees will be invited to take the online S Curve assessment before the event. In the session, Johnson will share helpful guidance and practical resources to help you accelerate your growth.

A Reimagined Funeral and Cemetery Profession Post-Pandemic
Speakers: Christopher Cruger,Chief Executive Officer, The Foresight Companies, LLC
Time: Tues, October 19, 9:45a-10:45a

In this timely, can’t-miss session, speaker Chris Cruger will unpack the results of a consumer study that will shed light on how COVID-19 will impact the funeral profession in the short and long-term future. The pandemic has deeply altered how we interact as a society. Understanding the expectations of the families you serve in our increasingly remote world will help you to adapt and embrace the new normal.

Pandemic Response: Lessons Learned and the Path Ahead

Conversation Café Panel Discussion

Time: Tues, October 19, 12:30-2p

This panel discussion will reflect back on how the disruption of funeral traditions and norms impacted the bereaved and the funeral service professionals caring for them. From the NFDA website: “Our expert panel includes state licensing board regulators, the owner of a large funeral business in New Jersey whose firm was the first in the state to care for a COVID death, and the executive director of The International Conference of Funeral Service Examining Boards to discuss the far-reaching impact of the pandemic on the profession and grieving families. Our panelists will look ahead and discuss positive changes to funeral service from both a regulatory perspective and from an owner’s viewpoint.”

The Delicate Balance of Your Family, Your Life and Your Family Business
Speaker: Mark Busch, Founder, AI Intuitive
Time: Wed, October 20, 8a-9a

Session speaker Mark Busch is the former fourth-generation co-owner of Busch Funeral and Crematory Services. Mark’s 40+ years of experience managing his family business has given him a deep understanding of the complexities of family dynamics and running a family-owned funeral business. In this informative session. Mark will provide a toolbox of techniques to help you balance your family life and family business.

Keynote Address

Resilience in the Face of Uncertainty

Speaker: Ben Nemtin, Author and Co-founder of the Buried Life Movement

Time: Wed, October 20, 12:15p-1:30p

From the NFDA website:Before becoming a #1 NYT bestselling author, playing basketball at the White House, having beers with Prince Harry, or living out his other dreams, Ben suffered from crippling depression. After committing to a series of positive life changes, Ben had a shift in perspective that changed his outlook on life and opened himself up to endless possibilities. From there, he committed to following his buried dreams and helping others through acts of service. The rest is history, and Ben’s life-changing message has opened up audiences worldwide to cultures of service, gratitude, and endless potential.

Explore Music City

There are so many exciting venues and landmarks to visit in “the city that music calls home.” Whether it’s your first time in Nashville or you’ve roamed the storied streets many times, take time during the NFDA Convention to explore everything that Nashville has to offer. Below are a few of our favorite city stops:

Broadway’s Nightlife

Just a block away from the convention center, lower Broadway consists of 4 blocks bursting with live country music venues, restaurants and businesses. From honky tonk clubs to historic cafes to concert halls, lower Broadway offers everything a music lover could ever want. Head to the world famous Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge (422 Broadway) to see where country legends like Patsy Cline and Willie Nelson got their start and listen to local talent cover modern country hits. For those who like a little bit of rock with their country music, check out The Stage on Broadway (412 Broadway) where live music plays every night and there is never a cover charge. If you’re in the mood for some mechanical bull riding, visit Tequila Cowboy (305 Broadway) where you’ll also find live music, a dance club lounge and Karaoke stage.

Jack’s BBQ

Only a short walk from Music City Center, the award-winning Jack’s BBQ has a little of everything for BBQ lovers. Offering a wide selection that includes Tennessee pulled pork shoulder, Texas-style brisket, St Louis-style pork ribs and a large selection of side dishes, you won’t find a better BBQ joint in the heart of Music City than Jack’s.

Take an Unforgettable Tour through the City

From tractor party tours to private golf carts tours, there are a lot of neat and interesting ways to see Nashville. You can hop on the General Jackson Showboat for a lunch or dinner cruise along the picturesque Cumberland River. Or, rent a party bike and pedal your way through the downtown Broadway area. Halloween is right around the corner, why not take a haunted walking tour through the city? Or, catch a glimpse of your favorite celebrity on the Nashville “Home of the Stars” bus tour. No matter your destination or speed, there is something for everyone. No shortage of options here!

Discover Country Music’s Roots

It’s not just the burgeoning live music scene that makes Nashville the city that “music calls home”. Nashville’s very foundation is built on music. Be sure to spend some time exploring all of the music history the city has to offer. Only a few blocks from Music City Center, you’ll find the “Mother Church of Country Music”the Ryman Auditorium (116 Fifth Avenue. North.) Built in 1892, the theater has showcased legendary artists like Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley. Just a few blocks away, you’ll find the largest collection of Johnny Cash artifacts and memorabilia in the world at the Johnny Cash Museum (119 3rd Ave. South.) On your walk back to the convention, take a stroll through the Music City Walk of Fame Park (4th Ave. South, directly across from Music City Center) to see the star-studded pavement honoring Nashville music legends and the Nashville Music Garden.

Grand Ole Opry

This is the show that made country music famous. Located about 15 minutes from Music City Center, The Grand Ole Opry (2804 Opryland Drive), Nashville’s #1 attraction, features a mix of legends and contemporary artists performing country, bluegrass, folk and more. It is also the longest running radio broadcast in history. Unlike a typical concert, the Opry shows feature eight or more artists, giving the audience a sample of each artist’s style. If you don’t have time to see a show, you can schedule a backstage tour of the theatre. In the center of the stage is a circle taken from the Ryland Auditorium where the Grand Ole Opry began in 1925.

If you’re feeling hungry while you’re in the Opryland area, check out Aquarium Restaurant (516 Opry Mills Drive). Dine while seated around a 200,000-gallon aquarium with floor to ceiling views of tropical fish, sharks, stingrays and more!

Centennial Park

If you’re looking to spend a little time with nature during your trip to Nashville, take a short, 10-minute drive over to Centennial Park (2500 West End Ave.) where you’ll find 132 acres of pristine green space. The park boasts the impressive and iconic Parthenon building, which is the only full-scale replica of the original Athens Parthenon in the world. As Nashville’s premier park, Centennial Park is also known for its beautiful sunken garden, historic monuments and views of Lake Watauga.

Embrace Your Inner Thrill-Seeker at Nashville Adventure Park

Just a few minutes outside of downtown Nashville, The Adventure Park invites guests to swing and soar amongst the trees. The self-guided, tree-to-tree climbing park boasts 156 treetop platforms connected by bridges, rope courses, ladders and 16 ziplines. For those bringing little ones, the park also offers an adventure playground for 3-6-year-olds.

ASD would like to wish everyone a safe and happy trip as you travel to Tennessee for the 2021 NFDA Convention. Be sure to leave a comment for us if there are any events, CE classes or attractions in Nashville you would recommend that we may have missed. We would love to add more to this guide!

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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