Thousands of funeral directors are preparing to attend the 2016 NFDA International Convention & Expo, making the event a great networking opportunity.
And while funeral directors aren’t strangers to public speaking, many don’t have the opportunity to network very often — especially with other funeral directors. This is especially true since networking with local directors would mean networking with competitors.
It’s because of this that conferences like NFDA are not only the best opportunities for networking — but sometimes the only opportunity — especially for directors who aren’t part of any other organizations.
- Different Perspectives. Networking with other funeral directors can help you think outside the box and get new perspectives about the industry.
- Product/Service Recommendations. Each director uses different services and products and plans life celebrations differently. Instead of blindly trying something new, you can talk to a trusted colleague about what has worked well, or not so well, for them.
- Camaraderie. Sometimes directing funerals is a lonely job. Even with a great support system, it can be useful to have someone to talk to who understands what you experience on a day-to-day basis.
- Potential Business/Caretakers. Though most funeral directors take care of their own family members, some are unable to because of distances between them and relatives. Networking with funeral directors in other locations means that you know someone you can trust with your family members there, and the same may happen with you.
Now that we’ve covered some of the benefits of networking, what are some of the best ways to effectively network with other funeral directors? We’ve put together a few tips for getting the most out your networking opportunities — whether they’re at the NFDA Convention or other conferences and events.
Tip 1: Branch Out
This might be the most important tip we give. The worst thing you can do when you network is stay too comfortable and meet people who are very similar to you. Here are a few people we suggest you try to meet:
- Someone younger. Younger directors can provide fresh perspectives and usually are well-versed in new trends and techniques.
- Someone older. Older directors have been around for a while and have seen a lot of different things. This makes them great resources when you’re faced with something you’ve never seen before and need advice.
- Different cultures. While you may serve a very specific audience at your funeral home, that may not always be the case — will you be prepared if someone makes a request you’re not used to based on their culture or religion? If not, having someone you can talk to who understands their requests can be incredibly helpful.
- Different call volumes. While you may have a lot in common with directors who have a similar amount of calls, meeting directors from funeral homes with varying degrees of business can be helpful. Someone with more calls than you may be able to offer growth strategies, while someone with fewer calls can offer strategies for personalization.
Tip 2: Meet Someone in Your State
Though this might appear to contradict our last point, we suggest that you meet at least one person that practices in your state in addition to all the diverse directors you meet otherwise.
Why? Because though others can provide unique perspectives, it’s also good to know someone who must follow the same state laws and regulations as you. It’s also good to have someone who is somewhat close, in case you ever want to meet up outside of conferences just to chat or to share ideas.
Tip 3: Share Personal Stories
When you do meet someone new, you’ll of course give them all the necessary details about yourself. You may do this in the form of a business card, or you might just share your number and tell your new acquaintance where you work or what you do.
No matter how you share generic information like your name, phone number, email, funeral home, etc., that’s not what makes you memorable. What makes people remember you and turn to you later is the personal connections you make.
Telling someone about a situation you were in once, or a time when you succeeded (or failed) despite all odds, connects your name and information to your personality and solidifies someone’s memory of you long after the conference or other event is over.
Tip 4: Build Networking into Your Schedule
Instead of going out of your way or out of someone else’s way to network, take advantage of the conference itself. Networking during one of the parties, sessions, or other events makes better use of your time than trying to coordinate something outside of the conference.
If you manage to make a connection with someone during the conference but want to chat more about ideas you have or just in general, that’s when it’s a good time to meet outside of the conference schedule.