Few could predict that in early 2020 the funeral industry would be forced to change how they do business, but that’s exactly what happened as the COVID-19 virus rewrote the social climate of the United States.

The future of funeral homes, how they conduct business, and how they perform services is affected by the recent pandemic social distancing restrictions that have limited and even stopped funeral services in some areas. COVID-19 may have been the start of a forced industry change, but it isn’t without noting that the industry was already moving in the direction of providing a more modern solution to funerals. Technology has created a “new world” where social connection is more common on a computer or device than it is in person. For businesses that have been built on a foundation of social gatherings such as funeral homes, technology has created a pause and the need for an upgrade.

Prior to 2020 the movement into a more tech-savvy industry with digital screens, elaborate websites, and streaming services were for many funeral homes considered an added luxury. Now, it is considered necessary to stay in business. Streaming services bring families closer.

Funeral and memorial services are a time for friends and family to gather in celebration of a loved one’s life. However, as state and federal guidelines become more restrictive, the funeral industry finds itself in a difficult position as it searches for a balance between the needs of family and industry guidelines.

Funeral homes across the nation are grasping to upgrade their services to provide virtual streaming of funerals. With the speed of these changes, many funeral directors are suddenly unprepared because of the requirements to use streaming technology; streaming services, video obituary pages, service recordings, access to cameras and hardware. Not to mention the technical knowledge required to provide a service, has become overwhelming to many.

As the funeral industry is making an extreme change to how funeral and memorial services are conducted one positive takeaway is that the technology not only exists but is used by tens of millions of people in the United States already. Streaming services have seen a huge push in recent months and for funeral directors, this is the new future of funeral, memorial and graveside services.

As funeral homes prepare to offer streaming services we have prepared an easy to follow guide to prepare your funeral space and record live streaming services.

Needed Equipment and Installation
Streaming services need specialized equipment and local installation may be necessary for funeral homes. When considering streaming services, it helps to bundle equipment and installation into a single service and should include the following.

• Streaming service account
• Internet connection
• Video camera(s)
• Microphones and audio equipment
• Natural and/or artificial lighting
• Computer or laptop to manage a website, streaming, and
video editing
• Additional HDMI and power cords

Commit someone to live-streaming
While it is always important to cross-train your staff, committing a single person to focus on and fully understand streaming services, as well as filming practices, will help you successfully manage the steep learning curve that may come from streaming funerals and memorials.

First, commit to a funeral home streaming service. Then designate an employee to live-streaming. This will help to prevent missteps during the service. This person should understand how to film a streaming service as well as create, store, and replicate the streaming service for family members, and navigate the upload and display of the video content.

Test the Technology
Prior to advertising your streaming services, it is important to test the equipment, internet speed, and filming area to minimize or eliminate mishaps during streaming. This is a time of need for your client families and you never want them to feel as if celebrating a loved one’s life isn’t taken seriously.

We recommend that you run through several tests prior to the first funeral or memorial streaming. When running mock-services things you will want to look for include:

• Is the lighting right for the area or are there reflections, shadows, and other disturbances?

• Is the audio working correctly or does it sound inaudible, scratchy, too loud, or not loud enough?

• Is the internet connection fast enough or do you need to contact your local internet provider to increase your internet speed?

• Do you understand how to set-up, use, and implement streaming technology online?

• Do you know how to use the software to set-up and manage services for new funerals or memorials?

Running through the technology should follow all steps from set-up and filming to using the software online by setting up mock services.

Advertise streaming services
Don’t forget to advertise streaming services. While many funeral homes have been offering a form of streaming, this may not be known to potential customers. In fact, many people are under the belief that funeral and memorial services are restricted altogether. By promoting streaming services and what you are providing, you can help grieving families balance the challenges of social distancing and the long-held values of saying goodbye to a loved one.

Engage with Families
Prior to the service, it is helpful for you to engage with the family. Ask for photos, vignettes, and an obituary which can be displayed on the family’s personal webpage. Remember, each service should have its own custom-branded webpage memorializing their loved one. While family and friends will not be able to socialize in person they can still reflect and remember their loved one. This can be best presented in the family’s engagement and publishing of content on the webpage.

Utilize Filming Best Practices
When filming a funeral or memorial service there are several best practices you can implement that will help your streaming feed look professional and keepsake videos remain memorable.

• Decide if your camera will remain stationary or move during the service. If you choose to move the camera during the service it is important to plan that movement, the close-ups, and how the surrounding lighting and audio will be affected.
• Designate one person to be the videographer and a back-up if available. Having someone who is dedicated to shooting the video means you have someone who is prepared and versed in how to shoot the service, also with the ability to manage any unforeseen circumstances.

• Check that all equipment is working properly the same day as the service, giving yourself enough time to adjust for faulty equipment.

• If you choose to move during the service move slowly so as not to skew the visuals or interrupt the audio.

• Be close enough to the microphone and cameras so that the audio is not fading in and out.

• Stream and record the service completely through without pausing or stopping recording.

• Zoom in as little as possible, preferably not at all.

• When checking the equipment make sure that the camera settings are adjusted properly.

• Lighting is important. You don’t want to have shadows, reflections, or glare. Natural light works well, but if natural light is limited you can use portable artificial lights and lighting screens to prevent awkward or challenging filming.

Save Streaming Event
It is important to save your video recording and we recommend archiving so the family can retrieve the recording if lost or if they would like additional copies.

When saving the video it is important to remember that video files can take up a lot of space. The good thing is that you do have several options that can provide plenty of storage for your services.

• An external hard drive or USB drive is convenient and located on-site. However, when using an external hard drive one thing to consider is that they are prone to damage, loss, and even malfunction resulting in the loss of information.

• Cloud Storage is a very helpful subscription-based service that can be upgraded when you need more storage. It is reliable, safe, shareable, and you do not need to worry about the loss of information.

It is important for families to understand that while in a time of need funeral homes are here to help balance current challenges and the importance of celebrating a loved one’s life. Funeral streaming services are the future of funerals and a great way for families to come together in a time when we must remain apart. This best practice guide for live streaming funeral services will ensure that you are providing streaming services that will be remembered and preserved for years. FBA

Jeff McCauley is a licensed funeral director, retired funeral home owner, and owner of Greene Valley Media – FuneralScreen, and winner of the NFDA Innovation Award. Jeff, and wife Sue McCauley, launched the FuneralScreen brand to help guide funeral homes into the changing world of digital displays and smart phones. FuneralScreen.com provides a complete digital service to funeral homes throughout the United States. Contact Jeff at [email protected] or call 800-270-1237.