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Your Complete Guide to the 2016 NFDA Convention: Part 2

Sep 29, 2016

ASD’s blog is your go-to source for everything you need to know about the upcoming convention and all that Philadelphia has to offer. In the coming weeks, visit our blog to read our 2016 NFDA GUIDE Blog Series. Each part of our series will focus on a different aspect of the convention or of the city. In Part One, we explained why the month of October is the best time for funeral directors to visit Philadelphia. In Part Two, we will tell you about the topics and speakers we are most looking forward to hearing at the 2016 NFDA Convention.

PART TWO: 9 NFDA Convention Sessions You Won’t Want to Miss

Every year, funeral professionals pack the NFDA Convention seminar rooms and auditoriums to hear experts discuss the latest ideas and advancements impacting the funeral service community. The ASD team always takes time to attend these sessions to hear different perspectives from convention presenters. With such a full lineup of dynamic speakers, it is always a challenge for us to decide which seminars we should attend. That is why we have scoured this year’s schedule of classes with a fine-tooth comb to create this list of can’t-miss sessions.

The NFDA conveniently provides audio recordings of many of the convention lectures. Workshops that are being recorded will be marked with a DVD symbol in the NFDA Convention Program & Planner. For the first time this year, workshop recordings will also be available for download from the NFDA website about 3 weeks after the convention. This means that if you can’t attend a particular course in person, but are interested in the topic, you may still be able to access all of the information shared by the speaker. For this reason, we’ve included two classes on our list that occur at the same time.

It is also important to keep in mind that there may be a specific topic not on this list that would especially beneficial for your funeral home. Be sure to check the NFDA’s full lineup of convention seminars, conversation cafes and keynote speakers to decide what subjects would be most valuable for you and your funeral home staff.

1) SESSION TITLE: An Inconvenient Death: The Funeral From Ritual to Final Disposition
SPEAKER: Matthew Binkewicz, Chaplain and Bereavement Counselor, Hospice of the Finger Lakes, Lansing, NY
NFDA CLASS DESCRIPTION: Historically, the funeral service played a critical role in the grieving process by providing an opportunity for family and friends to gather to share their grief and begin their journey of healing. Today, the traditional funeral service has experienced a decline in importance for the average American family. Many consider the funeral service a waste of time and money and instead focus on brevity, cost and convenience. As a funeral service professional, how do you respond to this “one and done” mindset? Explore ways to educate your community about the value of funeral service and its importance in the cycle of life. (1 CE Hour)
TIME: Sunday, October 23, 11:30am-12:30pm
REASON TO ATTEND: The topic addressed in this session is extremely relevant to all funeral homes. With cremations now exceeding the rate of burials, funeral directors must be prepared to better communicate the value of memorialization and ceremony to grieving families. Directors understand the funeral process extends beyond the disposition method, but how well is that concept being articulated? We look forward to hearing Binkewicz’s suggestions for getting that message out to the public. This class interests us especially because it tackles a very timely and important issue in funeral service and explains how effective communication can help resolve it.

2) SESSION TITLE: Discovering What Consumers Want: The Value of Providing a Meaningful Funeral Experience
SPEAKER: James W. Cummings, Funeral Director and Chief Experience Officer, Life Celebration Inc., North Wales, PA
NFDA CLASS DESCRIPTION: With today’s consumers more educated than ever, it’s imperative to adopt new communication processes to ensure consistently successful client interactions. Explore the proven frameworks and methodologies found in the best-selling business book, The Experience Economy. Understanding this experiential philosophy will enable you to communicate with client families in an inherently personal and more satisfying manner. Cummings will explain the psychology of today’s consumer and provide case study examples of success and failure using Simon Sinek’s “Power of Why” model. Learn the tremendous value of creating immersive and engaging experiences for your clients and employees. (1 CE Hour)
TIME: Sunday, October 23, 3:30pm-4:30pm
REASON TO ATTEND: There is no question that the days of cookie-cutter funerals are fading away as more families are requesting to hold unconventional funeral ceremonies that reflect the unique way their loved one lived. This session focuses on the perspective of families who visit the funeral home and examines what motivates the consumers of today. We have had the privilege of getting to know the Life Celebration team over the years and have found that their company’s tailored approach to funeral service is similar to ASD’s approach to telecommunications. By fully considering the family’s mindset and their expectations, directors will be able to create a custom experience based on the family’s specific needs. We are eager to hear Cummings explain how directors can take their personalized options to the next level in order to provide every family with an individualized service experience.

3) SESSION TITLE: The Go-Giver Way: Influence, Success and Profit
SPEAKER: Bob Burg, Burg Communications (Keynote Speaker)
NFDA CLASS DESCRIPTION: Can just a subtle shift in focus help you provide exceptional value, expand your influence and dramatically increase your firm’s profit? Without a doubt, according to Bob Burg, one of the world’s elite authorities in the field of relationship marketing. Burg teaches business professionals how to leverage their network of everyday contacts into a never-ending stream of potential new customers. Using his highly effective relationship cultivation process, new customers are converted into lifelong customers and “Personal Walking Ambassadors” who multiply the volume of referrals your firm will receive – exponentially! Based on Burg’s international bestseller, The Go-Giver, this inspiring and principle-based program teaches the Five Laws of Stratospheric Success and how they can be used to dramatically increase effectiveness both personally and professionally. (1 CE Hour)
TIME: Monday, October 24, 9:45am-11:45am
REASON TO ATTEND: The NFDA always does an exceptional job at selecting keynote speakers to get attendees energized for the start of the convention, and this year is no exception. Bob Burg’s general session seminar will cover the subject of word-of-mouth loyalty and building long-lasting relationships. If you have ever wondered why a family you served for generations suddenly began using a different funeral home, Burg’s presentation will shed light on how to prevent this from reoccurring. Learn how to preserve those relationships you work so hard to establish. Many funeral homes have been adversely impacted due to the old-time loyalty of the past slowly eroding. Families are more scattered today and many do not maintain relationships with any specific funeral service providers. Burg will address how you can reverse this negative shift and increase referrals through relationship marketing.

4) SESSION TITLE: The Science of Shopping: Make Your Product Sell Itself!
SPEAKER: Georganne Bender and Rich Kizer, Kizer and Bender Speaking!
NFDA CLASS DESCRIPTION: Retailers have trained customers to shop – why not use these proven techniques to your advantage? Consumer anthropologists Kizer and Bender offer up merchandising ideas you can take to the bank. They will lead you on a merchandising journey from the parking lot to the back door and every space inbetween. You’ll learn the latest in visual merchandising, layout and display, along with secrets of the trade, including what happens in the first 10 seconds of a consumer’s contact with your funeral home. Discover where the consumer experience begins and which things outside your funeral home factor into the experience once inside. (2 CE Hours)
TIME: Tuesday, October 25, 7:30a-9:30a
REASON TO ATTEND: Funeral professionals are service-hearted individuals who are chiefly motivated by a calling to help others. For this reason, many directors are not natural salespeople and struggle with this aspect of their business. This class will walk attendees through every stage of the customer’s experience with the funeral home and help directors to successfully sell their funeral home’s packages and merchandise. At ASD, we handle a great deal of shopper calls for funeral homes and we know it is an indisputable fact that first impressions are lasting impressions. Kizer and Bender will examine what factors influence a family’s earliest opinions of a funeral home and how to shape these opinions. This is a valuable seminar for funeral directors to gain insight into what elements affect consumer attitudes and purchasing decisions.

5) SESSION TITLE: Survey Says! Inside the Numbers
SPEAKERS: Edward Defort. Editor, NFDA Publications, Lacy Robinson NFDA Director, Member Development, David Nixon, President, Nixon Consulting Inc., Chatham, IL
NFDA CLASS DESCRIPTION: If you want to know what consumers think about funeral service and what you provide, the best thing to do is ask them! And that’s what we’ve done. For the fifth consecutive year, NFDA has asked consumers about their attitudes and preferences toward funeral service and the products and services offered. A panel of experts will analyze NFDA’s statistically significant database to get inside the numbers and translate how to use them to reach out to reconnect with today’s consumers and stay connected tomorrow. Don’t miss the latest episode of “The Yearly Show”! (1 CE Hour)
TIME: Tuesday, October 25, 9:45am-10:45am
REASON TO ATTEND: Statistics empower funeral professionals to make decisions for their business based on quantifiable data. The NFDA Consumer Awareness and Preferences Survey is the most accurate barometer of the public’s opinion of funeral service and memorialization. Understanding these statistics and how they affect funeral homes can help directors make important choices about their service options, marketing, pricing, merchandise and more. However, just looking at the numbers alone may not be enough to tell you how consumer attitudes have changed or how it might affect your funeral home in the future. That is why this presentation is a can’t-miss event. NFDA Leaders, Ed Defort (Editor of NFDA Publications) and Lacy Robinson (NFDA Director of Member Development) along with David Nixon (President of Nixon Consulting) will provide expert analyses of the survey results and explain what the latest statistics mean for the future of funeral service. If you’re interested in increasing your knowledge of the state of our profession, be sure to attend this information-packed session.

6) SESSION TITLE: Helping Families After Suicide Loss
SPEAKER: Marianne Reid Schrom, Director, Member and External Relations, New York State Funeral Directors Association, Albany, NY
NFDA CLASS DESCRIPTION: As a funeral director, you are one of the first people families contact following a death by suicide. Your role is critical in supporting the family and reducing the shame and stigma often associated with suicide. Gain an understanding of the impact a suicide death has on family and community and identify how it is a unique – and challenging – type of death. Learn which resources are available to funeral directors and survivors of suicide loss and how to work collaboratively with law enforcement and faith leaders. Discover how to coordinate an integrated, community-based model for ongoing support for the family.
TIME: Tuesday, October 25, 9:45am-10:45am
REASON TO ATTEND: Funeral directors have been responding to suicide calls and assisting the families of suicide victims since the birth of our profession. However, the need for a specialized approach when serving these families has never been more apparent. Earlier this year, the National Center for Health Statistics reported that the U.S. suicide rate had surged to a 30-year-high, rising by 24 percent from 1999 to 2014. This session puts a microscope on the emotional and mental toll that suicide has on loved ones who are often left behind with unanswered questions and unresolved grief. Schrom will provide attendees with education and resources to help them to better support families affected by suicide. This class is especially beneficial for funeral directors who also provide counseling services to families. (1 CE Hour)

7) SESSION TITLE: The Continuum of Care: Is Your Funeral Home Inside the Circle of Trust?
SPEAKER: Justin Baxley, Senior Vice President and Chief Customer Officer, Foundation Partners, Kitty Alexander, Manager, Community Outreach and Marketing, Foundation Partners
NFDA CLASS DESCRIPTION: What is the “continuum of care” and how can funeral service connect to it meaningfully and intentionally? Families are heavily influenced by recommendations of those they trust in medical, long-term care and hospice organizations, which serve patients and their families by meeting their needs at different stages. Funeral homes don’t speak the language of this cycle of care and fail to understand the best means to connect to it. Get an insider’s view of the “continuum of care” and learn how your funeral home can become preferable and recommendable to those who are closest to the bedside at the time of need. (1 CE Hour)
TIME: Wednesday, October 26 8am-9am
REASON TO ATTEND: At ASD, we take many calls from family and friends wanting to know when a funeral is scheduled. We also take a great deal of these calls from nurses who want to attend their patient’s services. Health care workers build strong relationships with their patients and their patients’ family members. This is especially true for homecare and hospice workers who often see the same patients over a long period of time. For funeral professionals, working closely with nurses and other medical professionals can help families to feel more comfortable leaving their loved one in the funeral home’s care. This session will explore how funeral homes can build partnerships within the medical community to help bridge the divide between healthcare and death care to make this transition more seamless for grieving families. Baxley and Alexander will provide tips on how funeral homes can work more closely with medical professionals to foster a mutually beneficial relationship.

8) SESSION TITLE: Differentiating Your Business in the Experience Economy
SPEAKER: Jim Gilmore, Co-founder, Strategic Horizons LLP, Aurora, OH (Special Engagement Speaker)
TOPIC: Differentiating Your Business in the Experience Economy
NFDA CLASS DESCRIPTION: With an ongoing torrent of brands attacking consumers from all sides, how do you make yours stand out? Just offering goods and services is no longer enough to differentiate your business. The key is offering compelling experiences that engage customers in a personal and memorable way. Co-author of the bestselling book The Experience Economy: Work Is Theater and Every Business Is a Stage, Gilmore describes the shifting dynamics in how value is being generated in advanced economies and shares a portfolio of specific methods and tools for staging revenue-generating experiences. Each technique is illustrated with examples that demonstrate how to create experiential value in very practical terms. (1 CE Hour)
TIME: Wednesday, October 26, 12pm-1:15pm
REASON TO ATTEND: After the NFDA Expo closes, be sure to catch this informative lecture to discover hands-on, practical tips and ideas for marketing your funeral home’s differentiators. Learn how to recognize what features and offerings make your funeral home unique and how to succinctly communicate these differentiators to families. Gilmore will provide concrete examples of ways funeral directors can separate from the herd by creating experiences for families that demonstrate the value their firm provides.

9) SESSION TITLE: You Become What You Feed
SPEAKER: Inky Johnson (Closing Speaker)
NFDA CLASS DESCRIPTION: When a life-threatening injury ended Tennessee Volunteer Inky Johnson’s dreams of becoming a career athlete, he chose to let adversity motivate and inspire him instead of bring him down. In one of his blogs, Johnson relates the story of a grandfather teaching his grandson about life, telling the boy that two wolves – good and evil – fight inside each person. When the child asks which one wins, the elder tells him, “The one you feed.” Johnson will share his moving story and his philosophy that what we give to the world through our thoughts, actions and words is a direct reflection of who we are. Inspiration to make positive change affects people from within, giving them the ability to accomplish what would otherwise be impossible. Through his walk and his talk, Inky Johnson embodies and imparts a truly inspirational message. (1 CE Hour)
TIME: Wednesday, October 26, 1:30pm-3pm
REASON TO ATTEND: Leave the NFDA Convention feeling inspired and moved by closing speaker, Inky Johnson’s personal story about overcoming adversity. This year’s grand finale offers a message of resilience and perseverance that encourages attendees to look within and determine what positive changes could be made in their lives. We hope after hearing Inky speak, you depart from Philly feeling motivated to tackle both your professional and personal goals.

What other sessions are you looking forward to attending at the 2016 NFDA Convention? Please leave us a comment and share your thoughts with us. Be sure to follow our Twitter page, @myASDCalls throughout the convention and especially during sessions. We will be LIVE tweeting tips and suggestions from convention seminars.

RELATED READING: Part One of our NFDA Convention Guide: 7 Reasons October is the Best Time For Funeral Directors to Visit Philadelphia

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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