Session Descriptions

Keynote: Decedent Identification & Quality Assurance at NYC OCME

Speaker: Aden Naka, Deputy Director of Forensic Investigations, NYC OCME

This presentation will provide an overview of decedent identification and detail the identification practices at the NYC Office of Chief Medical Examiner. Various types of identification and unique case studies will be shared throughout the session.

Aden Naka, Deputy Director of Forensic Investigations, has been with the NYC Office of Chief medical examiner for almost 7 years, most recently serving as the Deputy Director of Forensic Investigations, overseeing the Identification, Family Outreach and Fingerprint Units. Prior to this position she worked as a Deputy Coroner in Dupage County, IL, for 8 years, conducting medicolegal death investigations. Aden holds a Masters of Science in Human Identification (University of Dundee, UK) and a Bachelors of Art in Anthropology (University of Illinois, Chicago).

General & Concurrent Sessions

In order of appearance during the Convention Schedule

Funeral Arrangements to Die For; Best Practices of the Funeral Arrangement Conference (Justin Zabor)

Just wrote an interesting newsletter article highlighting some key takeaways from him sessions. Check it out!

The arrangement conference is arguably the most important aspect of the entire funeral experience. Therefore it merits greater attention by the modern professional. In this program, Justin will reveal what it takes to be a top-notch arranger using over a decade of experience speaking with and presenting to funeral directors all over North America. You will learn the 5 advanced arrangement techniques that include communication skills, rapport building and openended questioning that lead to greater trust and impact in serving your families. Justin will also address what you can do before, during and after the arrangement conference to guarantee your families are satisfied with the quality of the service you provide.

Before the arrangements even begin you can begin laying a quality foundation by giving the family a thorough checklist of things to bring to the meeting, inquiring about a preliminary time frame for the funeral and researching pre-arranged files. During the meeting, you will learn how to use advanced arrangement techniques that include communication skills, rapport building and open-ended questioning that lead to greater trust and satisfaction upon completion of the funeral. After the arrangement conference, you will gain insight on how to under-promise and overdeliver, manage a myriad of details and follow through on expectations.

Bringing Children and Teens into the Funeral (Megan Lopez, NACG) (offered twice)

Join us as we explore strategies to bring children into the funeral. This presentation will address creating emotional support, educational opportunities and physical spaces within the funeral service and funeral home for children and teens. The information that will be shared, is from the National Alliance for Children’s Grief, is a network of childhood bereavement professionals and reflects best practices in supporting our youngest population. Funeral professionals often have the first opportunity to impact a child’s grief experience. From the initial point of contact through navigating the planning process and memorialization, funeral professionals have an opportunity to impact the grief journey and foster resilience in children and teens who are the adults of our future. Join us as together, we work to ensure that No Child Has to Grieve Alone.     

How To Be Known, Trusted, and Celebrated on Facebook (Bill Johnston) (offered twice)

In our seven years of working with funeral homes and after publishing tens of thousands of posts on Facebook and Instagram, the leading insight we can share is simply this: Facebook Users Love Their Funeral Homes. We see the outpouring of love and gratitude towards them all the time, yet most funeral professionals are unaware of this inspirational truth. It’s almost a secret!

What this tells us is “Faces on Facebook” works. By posting images of funeral directors, assistants, office administrators, owners, managers, even comfort dogs, funeral homes and their staff will be known, trusted, and celebrated on Facebook. This workshop reveals how to be known using faces on Facebook, trusted with “word of mouth” advertising from user engagements and posting obituaries, and celebrated by Facebook users who have been served at their funeral home.

The Cremation of Sam McGee: A Profile of the Modern Cremation Consumer (Justin Zabor)

Just wrote an interesting newsletter article highlighting some key takeaways from him sessions. Check it out!

Sam Mc Gee was a character in a popular 20th century poem by the late Robert W. Service, but his spirit is alive and well in today’s consumer. In this presentation, Justin Zabor will paint a dynamic portrait of the 21st century cremation consumer. You will learn Who Sam Mc Gee is, What he expects, When you’ll meet him, Where you’ll find him, Why he is elusive, and most importantly, How we as professionals can best serve him.

Case Studies in Severe Trauma Restorations (Dominick Astorino)

No matter what your experience level or call volume is traumatic deaths will occur and you will be called upon. Oftentimes, the surviving family will have a desire to see their loved one and you will be asked if that is possible.  This lecture will examine the most common causes of traumatic death through the lens of forensic medicine to point out what you can expect and how you can best approach these difficult cases.  Using a step-by-step approach supported with photo documentation discussions will be had about specific causes of death including gunshots to the head caused by handguns and shotguns, blunt force head injury caused automobile and motorcycle accidents, sharp force injuries caused by acts of violence, and crushing head injuries.

The Young and the Restless (Leili McMurrough)

The challenges of hiring and retaining quality talent seem to be a nationwide issue plaguing our funeral homes. Funeral home hiring managers want the Energizer Bunny. Yet, modern apprentices want work/life balance, benefits, and a living wage. This conflict of interests has created a gap in expectations, making it difficult to find good candidates to fill critical roles. Even more importantly, this disconnect has caused an exodus of hard-working, dedicated professionals in pursuit of other careers.

What can we do to fix this problem? During this presentation, we will focus on creating a funeral home environment that welcomes and retains talent by taking an "employee-centered" perspective. We will hear various views from mortuary students, recent graduates, apprentices, and first-year funeral directors, and learn why some of our rising stars leave the profession.   

Marketing in the Digital Age (Chuck Gallagher)

Chuck shared lots of information relating to his session. Flip through his newsletter article for more.

This course is designed for business owners in the funeral profession who want to explore the impact of AI, YouTube, and social media on marketing their funeral services. The course will cover the latest marketing strategies and techniques that leverage these technologies, and provide insights on how to develop more effective campaigns. Through case studies, group discussions, and hands-on exercises, business owners will gain a thorough understanding of the latest marketing practices and will develop the skills needed to apply them in the funeral profession.    

Say Farewell Their Way (Jennifer Muldowney)

Hear it in her own words! Open this quick video where Jennifer shares what you can expect from her session.

NFDA forecasts the US cremation rate will soar to 78.7% in 2040 and we will continue to witness steep increases in direct cremations. While this can be viewed as a serious pain point for funeral homes in lack of revenue, relationship building and opportunities to upsell, it can equally be used as an opportunity for change. Since 2007 the percentage of religiously unaffiliated adults increased from 16% to 29% of the US population according to Pew Research. The benefit of after-death rituals depends on the ability of the bereaved to shape those rituals and say goodbye in a meaningful way. In this presentation, we will show how, by shifting an antiquated mindset and embracing a new blueprint, we can offer more support to grieving families, showing them value in the funeral home.

Many traditional funerals are at odds with the style that characterized the life of the deceased. Many religious services are highly formulaic and refer only to scripture or generalized readings. This can be depersonalizing and dehumanizing to some families. A Modern end-of-life ritual should have two goals; to provide a cathartic experience for the living and provide a suitable and highly personal tribute in honor of the deceased. This applies to both secular and non-secular services.

By allowing grievers the freedom to grieve at their own pace and in their own unique way at a memorial or funeral, we remove an antiquated, and assumed construct of mourning and make way for an all-inclusive service.

Scientific Case Analysis for the Modern Embalmer (Dominick Astorino)

The modern embalmer’s job is complicated by things such as medication, opioid and alcohol abuse, pH imbalances and pathologies.  This lecture takes an in depth look at common issues that today’s embalmer faces such as edema, jaundice, and emaciation and offers thoughtful discussion on case analysis and approaches for successful results.

NYS Law: Misconduct in the Business and Practice of Funeral Directing (Thomas Fuller) (offered twice)

Join us for a comprehensive review of all laws specific to funeral service in New York State. Thomas will provide a Bureau definition of misconduct and review frequent examples and common penalties. Plus, he'll share the latest directly from the Bureau.

Estate Planning for Digital Assets (Evan Carroll)

As clients increasingly live their lives online and new laws develop surrounding digital assets, funeral professionals have a new responsibility to their clients both pre-need and at-need. Are you one of the leading professionals who advise your clients about digital estate planning? If not, this session will give you all of the background, training, and tools to become one. Evan Carroll, author of Your Digital Afterlife and a world-leading expert on digital assets, will help you add value for your clients by advising them about the complexities of death in our digital age.

The Great Generational Shift (Bruce Tulgan)

Wondering what Bruce is going to discuss? Here's a quick teaser!

Older Baby Boomers are leaving the workforce in droves, taking with them their collective skill, knowledge, wisdom, institutional memory, and old-fashioned work ethic. Second-wave Millennials and post-Millennial Gen Z are flooding in, bringing a whole new attitude to work.  Meanwhile, older Millennials and Gen X are stuck in the middle, with the lion’s share of day-to-day supervisory responsibility.

Not only is this a great generational shift in the demographics of the workplace. It’s also an epic turning point in the norms and values around work. With a workforce more generationally diverse than at any other time in history, employers and managers are facing new challenges at every point on the age spectrum.

  • Do you know where each generation in your workplace is coming from and where they are going?
  • What kind of succession planning is your organization doing?
  • Are you developing talent at every level?
  • What kind of knowledge/wisdom-transfer are you prepared to do?
  • How are you attracting, selecting, and on-boarding the best young talent?
  • What are you doing to make sure that new hires are not thrust into a sink-or-swim workplace that will drive them away?

Bruce Tulgan addresses these questions and more, drawing on decades of workplace research, sharing true stories from real managers. With a blend of humor, insight, and concrete best-practices, Bruce helps audiences understand the generations in the workplace today – each at different life stages, with conflicting perspectives, expectations, and needs—so that you can turn age diversity into a strategic advantage.

* As of July 27, 2023; subject to change.