IOHO: NFDA 2020 Was a Virtual Success!
While it’s true that in a normal year, most of us would have loved to have spent the past week connecting with colleagues in the Big Easy, the virtual 2020 NFDA International Convention and Expo was the next best thing. Attendees enjoyed most of the perks of an in-person conference, from expert presentations to an ample expo hall, without the burden of a post-Bourbon Street hangover or French Quarter hotel bill.
The conference kicked off on Tuesday with a rousing and pleasingly-interactive keynote from leadership guru Simon “Find Your WHY” Sinek and ended on Thursday with an adorable puppy race. In between were nearly 20 opportunities for continuing education credit, several active “Ask the Expert” chats, and of course, lots of vendors eager to share details about their products and services. Here’s our list of what we liked about NFDA 2020 — and what you may have missed if you opted out of the virtual experience.
Effective online format
If you think one more Zoom meeting will tip you over the edge, you’re not alone. Which might be why the Hubb platform NFDA selected for the 2020 interactive conference was so refreshing. The site was easy to navigate, with an interactive virtual lobby and quick-access sidebar. Logistically, it was simple to find the next presentation, create your own schedule, and register for great prizes, if you chose to do so. Connecting with fellow participants and exhibitors in the expo hall was also a breeze. The “add to calendar” was useful, too, especially for the multitaskers (a.k.a. pretty much everyone) who were trying to work and attend the conference at the same time. Most of the technical glitches mentioned in the comments during presentations seemed to stem from user’s computer issues, not the platform. One might think that coordinating dozens of online sessions for thousands of virtual participants would be equivalent to herding cats, but NFDA seems to have pulled it off seamlessly!
Attendee and presenter engagement
Because the sessions were largely pre-recorded, the presenters were free to interact with attendees in the accompanying chat area. This was actually better than the traditional live presentation format where questions are typically held until the end of the presentation, at which time most everyone is fidgety and ready to get to the next conference room. What was really cool were the number of people who asked questions and made comments, and how quickly the presenters— and other participants — responded. It was great to see everyone engaging with one another, and to see that the presentation topics were relevant enough to provoke the comments.
The comments and participation during each virtual session validated what we observed upon reviewing the content lineup — the CE sessions and discussion group topics were on-point for an audience of death care professionals. The presentations tackled soft skills like grief counseling after traumatic deaths as well as the harder ones, like embalming techniques. There were plenty of sessions on the business of running a funeral establishment, as well. We’re going to dig deeper into a few of those in future editions. Plus, there were breaks for trivia, astrology, and magic tricks. And did we mention there were puppies? Sooo many cute puppies!
Interactive expo hall
There was a lot to like about the NFDA’s virtual expo hall. You could browse exhibitors’ wares 24/7, decide which ones you wanted to learn more about, and schedule a convenient chat or video call. If you didn’t stop by a vendor’s booth or missed the expo or conference completely, we hope you’ll check out and contact some of these hardworking suppliers. If you watched Funeral Nation #206, you’ll learn that from a vendor’s perspective, this format wasn’t ideal. As an attendee, too, you did miss out on the chance to touch an urn or trade physical business cards, but under the circumstances, the structure of the virtual expo was as good as it could get.
Perhaps that’s the biggest takeaway from NFDA 2020 — in a world where people are spending more time in front of a screen than in front of another human and switching to credit cards that provide Amazon points instead of Sky Miles, the convention was a great success. NFDA stepped up with a best-in-class platform and a lineup of stellar speakers and gave us folks in the death care space the opportunity to learn and reconnect in an engaging and safe environment. Kudos to NFDA! And prayers that we get to really reconnect — in-person — in Nashville in 2021.