You are currently on the cusp of change. You are standing at the precipice of evolution. You are entrenched in a moment so valuable to your work, your mission, and your tradition. The personalization of funerals and the movement toward life celebrations puts you, the funeral director, in a unique position to influence and encourage, even galvanize, the future of your own industry.

The International Cemetery, Cremation, & Funeral Association’s Annual Convention approaches, and with it, a hall filled with enthusiastic exhibitors eager to share not just their products and services, but more importantly, to hear how they can help you facilitate quality, achieve optimal payback on your investments, and strengthen your services. It is this precise type of exchange which enables you to continue as a forward-thinking professional, who is interested in not only monitoring trends, but influencing them and growing the industry positively.

With this in mind, be aware of the following points to maximize your time at the ICCFA Annual Convention.

Don’t be dismissive. The landscape of an expo hall at any conference can be overwhelming in its breadth and its variety. To make the most of your experience at the ICCFA, in the expo hall and beyond, focus upon on the primary problem you are trying to solve at your funeral home and approach each vendor as a potential solution to that problem. You could end up surprised: that little booth in the corner which you might have overlooked could be the answer to your current dilemma. Or, you could discover a new gem at the booth of a vendor with which you maintain a consistent business relationship. Influencers don’t rule anything out at first glance, no matter how far out, instead they approach each situation with a fresh outlook. You never know what a genuine conversation can offer.

Learn more about marketing. Even if you have your own dedicated marketing department or outsource your social media, attend marketing sessions and speak with vendors who support new technology and marketing services. Being a progressive leader in any industry means that you should be a public expert. New tech is constantly speeding up the marketing cycle and consistent messaging, across all media, is imperative to signaling your expertise. Consider this: Facebook, although an important tool, is old hat. In order to be considered an expert in your industry, you should be aware of the current trends in social media and beyond. You don’t have to be on the cutting edge to move your home and your industry forward, but you must, at the very least, be aware of how other industries are marketing to their clientele. Again, approach everything with an open mind. You never know when something will spark for you.

Identify future trends. There is no better place to discover what is coming than at a conference and expo. The entire basis of the event is to inform and connect, and most of the information presented is centered around the latest products, tools, and services. Exhibitors are there to showcase their newest products and explain how you can tap into the freshest ideas. This doesn’t mean you should latch onto each and every trend, it just means you should delve deeper into those products and services which solve your problems. Do a little research. Monitor these new ideas. Network with other professionals and get their opinions. Listen to what others are speaking about and ask a lot of questions. In many instances, you’ll find that your peers are thinking along the same lines and may have insight on how to adapt to a reputable trend. After all, networking time is built into the conference schedule for a reason.

Therefore, network, network, network. The best part of attending an event like the ICCFA is to meet others in your industry, connect, and build relationships. Above all, the value inherent in networking, with exhibitors as well, does more than deliver instant results and solve immediate problems. Leaders in any industry develop large networks for partnerships, as well as future and current needs. A strong industry is comprised of authentic, solid, supportive business partnerships. We are all in this together and no one gets ahead alone.

Remember, you are part of a unique and storied heritage. You understand the tradition. You are a part of a legacy hundreds of years in the making. Your profession is one which has always been, and always will be, an essential component of our life and our culture, and this is precisely why you understand the inherent value of marrying tradition with new knowledge, with innovation, and with technology. While the story of your profession is rooted in history, the posterity of your work should be filled with same sense of unbridled entrepreneurship which fueled the generations that brought you here, and exploring new ideas, new relationships, and new partnerships is the exact propellant which moves this industry forward. FBA

Petra Lina Orloff is president and CEO of Beloved, which produces custom, personalized, handcrafted obituaries and eulogies. She has been a professional writer for over 20 years and also completed the PhD program in English at Wayne State University in Detroit, where she taught literature and cultural studies. Her academic area of specialty is storytelling. You may contact her at [email protected] or at (248) 894-7076, or visit