15 Event Ideas That Will Help You Educate & Inform Your Families

Posted April 11, 2018

10 min read

Have you been to a Death Café in your community? Or how about a Death Over Dinner event?

These are just two examples of the kinds of events that get families to start having the conversations they tend to avoid.

One thing is becoming clear: in-person events and digital content are helping to transform how our families are thinking about—and talking about—life and death.

So how can you get inspired to create your own content that can do the same with families?

To explore that topic, we spoke with Gail Rubin, Certified Thanatologist. In case you didn’t know, Rubin is a pioneering death educator, funeral expert, Celebrant, podcast and TV show host, author, and award-winning speaker. She gets end-of-life and funeral planning conversations started through one-of-a-kind events, humor-filled presentations, and memorable content. Among other events, Rubin helped pioneer the Death Cafe movement in the United States, as well as Before I Die Festivals.

Rubin, The Doyenne of Death®, helps others bring light to dark topics around the world. She will consult with those who want to create events in their own communities, too.

Here are 15 ideas from Rubin to inspire educational, informative, and educational activities and content for your families that can lead to connections and sales.

1. Conduct a behind-the-scenes visit at your mortuary.

People love the idea of a “behind-the-scenes” look at things, says Rubin. Giving them an insider’s look at what goes on and what happens in a mortuary will capture people’s attention, while helping to demystify and educate viewers. This might be a blog post with photos or even better, captured through video. Rubin has had great success with these kinds of visits. “After I did my TEDx talk in Albuquerque in 2015, the organizers followed up with a program they called TEDx Adventures. Interested audience members could go on a field trip related to what the speaker talked about,” she explained.

Rubin’s TEDx Adventure was a behind-the-scenes tour at a funeral home location followed by a Death Café in the reception center.

“I videotaped the entire tour with my little Flip camera. It resulted in a 45-minute tour of the entire funeral home, including going into their prep room. That video has more than 209,000 views since it was published.”

As her most popular YouTube video, it receives many comments. This interest shows just how much people want to learn when it’s done in a non-threatening, open way.

French Funeral Home Tour: https://youtu.be/7NeLS_9ofwY
How Alkaline Hydrolysis Works: https://youtu.be/ad0u9K_QaGU
Elements of Fire Based Cremation: https://youtu.be/nx0Rf3Y3qNA

2. Feature a conversation with a Medical Investigator

It’s no wonder television dramas dealing with Medical Investigators are popular! People are intrigued by the job, something that Rubin can attest to. During her Before I Die ABQ Festival, the field trip to the New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator, limited to 30 people, had a waiting list of 15 additional people.

If you can do a video, blog, or even a podcast interview with a Medical Investigator, it’s sure to pique people’s interest, help them learn—and of course, it’s very share-worthy!

3. Host your own Death Café conversation.

More than 6,057 Death Cafes have been held in 56 countries since September, 2011. Knowing just how popular these meet-ups have been, don’t neglect what’s already been successful in getting people to talk about end-of-life issues!

Hosting a Death Café involves enthusiasm, building relationships in the community, organizing the event itself, and patience…sound familiar? The Death Café website has a starter guide that offers great tips and advice on how to hold your own event here.

When planning your first event, look ahead to when you might schedule the next one. If you can create a regular cadence for the events, these meet-ups can grow in popularity over time. Just remember these key tenets: no selling or leading people to adopt a particular point of view or conclusion.

4. Affiliate with theater events.

Films or live theater productions can foster community end-of-life conversations. “Tuesdays With Morrie” and “Wit” offer compelling jumping off points for serious conversations about advance healthcare directives. Funeral planning films can be funny, serious, or both. Some good candidates include “Bernie,” “Departures,” “Get Low,” “Harold and Maude,” and “Undertaking Betty.”

Make sure you have the proper licensing to show films to the public. Visit [www.MPLC.org])(https://www.mplc.org/) to learn more.

5. Showcase local history.

One way people can think about and become more comfortable talking about death is learning about local history in a cemetery. Have a historian conduct a tour of an old cemetery and tell stories of the famous and not-so-famous residents resting there. Local history will automatically be shared. It also delivers a subliminal message about the importance of having a permanent final resting place.

6. Hold a panel discussion on religion.

“You can create a panel discussion with faith leaders talking about each religion’s take on life, death, and the afterlife. You may be surprised just how many people want to learn about these topics,” says Rubin. If you can’t do a live panel discussion, create a video that can be shared online. Panel discussions can be in a neutral setting. People don’t have to go to your funeral home, necessarily, to find out the information. This minimizes the idea that the funeral director is going to try to sell something. Eliminating that concern can help with attendance.

7. Conduct a Q&A with a Coroner.

If your local government uses the coroner system, as opposed to Medical Investigators, host and record a Q&A session with a Coroner. This provides an opportunity to explain the differences. You can involve people in the crowd, encouraging them to ask questions. By making a video recording, you create more online video content to offer.

8. Hold an activity, party, or reception in a cemetery or mausoleum.

Many people love parties, and holding one in cemetery or mausoleum can really get people talking! Some cemeteries are holding movie nights and Yoga or Pilates classes on their grounds.

The Dia de los Muertos celebration on October 31 offers a wealth of rituals to remember and celebrate one’s ancestors in the cemetery. Consider using the animated film Coco to introduce these ideas to attendees.

9. Host a poetry event.

At the Before I Die Festival in Louisville, Kentucky, organizers created a poetry reading event called “Dying in the Streets.” The poems raised awareness of local indigent deaths and helped foster community mourning for the homeless who had died.

10. Show how caskets are made.

If you have a local urn or casket-making workshop, consider arranging a tour and video record how their caskets and urns are made. The Before I Die ABQ Festival featured a tour of the wood workshop of Fathers Building Futures, which provides jobs and skills to previously incarcerated parents to keep them from returning to jail.

11. Join forces with other funeral homes.

In today’s world, your biggest competition isn’t necessarily the funeral home down the street. Don’t be afraid to join forces with other funeral homes to create content or events.

For example, you could participate in a panel discussion with other local funeral directors. People can ask their questions and you can provide honest, authentic answers. Multiple points of view provide valuable information.

At the Albuquerque Before I Die Festival, a session featuring a panel of funeral directors called, “What You Need to Know Before You Go” was one of the most popular festival events.

12. Create an art show.

Art shows are a great way to build community and to bring people together. Rubin did this with New Mexico artists in “Earth, Air, Fire, and Water: A Celebration of Cremation Art” show as part of the Before I Die ABQ Festival.

Berardinelli Family Funeral Service in Santa Fe regularly features the work of local urn artists in their showroom. In March, they held an event called “Transitioning Artfully: Approaching the Intersection of Art and Death.” They featured the urn artwork of eight artists in ceramics and wood. The also showed movies, hosted Death Cafes, provided a tour of their crematory, and had Rubin speak on “Answers to Your Burning Questions About Cremation.”

13. Showcase how to live well.

You’d expect funeral homes to create content about death and dying, but don’t forget about creating experiences and content around living well. Two sessions at the Before I Die ABQ Festival featured experts who talked about making the most of life. (The sessions were recorded, and you can see them here: how to live well using advance medical directives and how to live well by making the most of today.)

14. Embrace the questions you’re hearing.

Are there some questions you hear over and over? Maybe they’re about cremation, or about green funeral options. Turn those questions you’re hearing into blog topics, podcasts, or videos where you can provide education and information. The content also helps you be found more easily online regarding those topics.

Pervasive questions provide another opportunity to feature outside speakers and experts so it’s not all about you or your funeral home. Outside expert speakers can share information that provides a fresh point of view. The public may be more inclined to come and learn when the content isn’t all coming from your firm.

15. Throw a pizza pre-planning event.

Food is a powerful motivator. Done the right way, you can get some buzz by throwing a “pre-planning pizza party” that allows time for people to ask questions about pre-planning, and what it might look like for them.

They may not actually pre-plan during the event, but a pizza party is sure to get people talking and considering how to plan their funeral. It’s also an event where people feel comfortable and tend to bring family or friends with them, if you communicate about it the right way.

Transforming a Seemingly Difficult Conversation Into an Empowering One

Don’t be afraid to experiment with events and content creation. Some things will be more successful and more popular than others, and that’s to be expected.

Whatever you put your energy towards—blogs, white paper downloads, e-books, resource guides, audio, video, or events—these things can all help you transform “difficult” conversations into engaging, insightful, and empowering ones.

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