By: Ann Marie St. George, CPC

To say the least Covid-19 not only turned our profession inside out, upside down and sideways, but it also created a virtual world we may or may not have seen coming. Some of us that did see this coming may have hoped it would happen far after they retired. Face it, we are all naturals when it comes to the face to face aspects of this profession; It is the easiest way for us to create a bond of trust with the families we serve. These days due to Covid restrictions we need to be more resourceful in finding ways to connect with our families. The world of online funeral arrangements and meetings has been born.

Here are 10 ways that you can ensure epic failure in your quest to achieve greatness in the virtual world of funeral arrangements.

1. Time – when setting up a meeting make sure it is more convenient for you than the family. After all, why should you be inconvenienced?

2. Place – you never want to hold one of these calls in the funeral home, it is way too depressing. Choose somewhere more familiar like your favorite bar, possibly somewhere sunny and warm like a crowded local beach or maybe even get creative and use your man cave or she shed at home- a place where you will be comfortable.

3. Who – Don’t encourage the family to let all the decision makers know about the call, it is much easier to have less people on the call, no big deal if you have to set up 10 more calls to make sure everyone is on the same page.

4. What – If the family offers to give you any helpful information before the call insist on them waiting until the virtual get together, there is no sane reason to be that efficient.

5. Clothing – Make sure you dress comfortably, think of lounging around the house on a Sunday during football season. LOL I hope you didn’t think I was going to tell you to dress for success, please….

6. Script – the best way to lead one of these meetings is to fly by the seat of your pants and go for it, just make sure you let the family know you have never done this before and that we are all in this together. There is nothing family loves more than making a funeral arrangement for their loved one with someone that sounds like they do not have a clue.

7. Noise – Check to make sure everyone has their mic unmuted so the family can talk over each other while ignoring you to ensure pure chaos- just like a live meeting.

8. Lighting – if you are having a bad hair day sit in a really dark space during the call, the family will be more than comforted by just your voice even if all they can think of is, “whether you are still there.”

9. Excuses – If after giving the family 3 different times and they cannot make up their mind give them your competitions number and let them deal with these knuckleheads. We all have better things to do- like take another online seminar about Covid-19.

10. Ending the call – When you start to get tired and feel hungry, politely let the family know you have something else going on and that they are out of time. If they have any questions tell them to call back tomorrow and ask for the office manager because you have sold the business and they will certainly be in good hands with whomever will take care of them. Make sure they see you roll your eyes for affect. I find the “eye roll” speaks louder than words, just ask my husband.

Once you get the hang of these calls here are a few things to make the calls more fun –

• Be late getting on the call while dressed like the grim reaper

• Make up nick names for each of the family members and then use them on the call

• Make random noises throughout the call while looking around like you see ghosts

• Get so close to the camera that all they see is your forehead

• Laugh for no reason

• Make sure to eat during the call so your stomach does not growl, how embarrassing would that be!!

• If you are not comfortable drinking alone encourage the family to get drunk with you.

• Take the laptop into the bathroom with you and pretend you are…. Blowing your nose silly, what did you think I was going to say….

• Put on a different outfit every time you leave and come back into the room

• Better yet, leave the room during the call and never come back

My goal was to get a smirk out of most of you and a true belly laugh from a few. The bottom line with making virtual arrangements is practice, practice, practice and never let them see you sweat. You will get better at it and hopefully knowing we are all on the same stage will encourage you. There are places to get help if you need it, Google around or look through your trade magazines. There are seminars and trainings available that will walk you through every step of making funeral arrangements online with your families. Do not panic help is out there!!

A special thank you to everyone in our profession; We stepped up to the plate and in true Babe Ruth fashion hit it out of the ballpark!! Traditionally, we are a little slow on the uptake but when push came to shove, we did not miss a beat. Thank you again for being there for all of us. Both my husband and I lost family members during the last few months and I am so grateful we had all of you to help us through a tough time. FBA


Ann Marie St. George, CPC, a first-generation funeral director has worked for the past 20 years as a Regional Manager for Cooperative Funeral Fund, a preneed and cemetery care fund management company. She is a Mortuary Officer for both DMORT Region II and Kenyon International Emergency Services. She encourages anyone reading her articles to reach out by email at [email protected] Suggestions for topics are always encouraged. For more information, visit www.CooperativeFuneralFund.com or call (800) 336-1102.