The power of a shared experience

It’s a travel day for me, and I’m writing this article while sitting in an airport waiting for my flight.

I have a love/hate relationship with airports and the whole flying experience. I love getting to my destination quickly, but I’m not too fond of the process of getting there.

Sometimes flying is a painless experience, and sometimes it’s a nightmare. I go into a travel day with low expectations, so I’m not disappointed if things go awry.

The flying experience is a lot like the funeral experience; the bar isn’t set too high. But more on that a little later.

One of the best flying experiences I’ve ever had happened at the Atlanta airport years ago. I was flying from Detroit to Miami and had a three-hour layover in Atlanta. I was dreading the layover, but it turned out to be a great time.

It was January, and the NFL playoff games were in full swing. I found a seat in a crowded airport bar to kill some time during the layover, hoping to catch a little of whatever game was on then.

I don’t remember what teams were playing, but I’ll always remember how the crowd reacted to the game. I’ve never seen so many strangers celebrating and high-fiving each other before. 

People entered the bar as strangers but quickly made new friends. The shared experience of the playoff game created a fantastic, unifying event.

Without the game, people would have passed through the airport unchanged. They might have checked the scores on their phones, but there would be no shared experience.

But because of the game, people experienced the highs and lows of a close playoff game together. They laughed, cheered, yelled at the refs, high-fived strangers, and left the airport feeling changed.

If their team won, they left feeling energized. If their team lost, they left sad that their team’s playoff run had ended for another year.

That’s the power of a shared experience; it can change your state of mind. You start out feeling one way, you have the experience, and you end up feeling differently.

An airplane flight or a layover in an airport bar are experiences you share with fellow passengers.

A funeral is an experience you share with your family, friends, neighbors, and sometimes the entire community.

A funeral has the power to change your state of mind. Someone comes to your funeral home in one state of mind and can leave feeling different.

If the funeral was a negative experience, they will feel glad that it’s over with. If they find themselves having to make funeral arrangements for someone in the near future, they’re probably going to arrange a direct cremation.

If the funeral was a positive experience, they leave feeling changed. Rather than just being relieved that the funeral is over, they leave feeling like they’ve just experienced something meaningful.

If they find themselves having to make funeral arrangements, they will recall their positive experience and plan a similar event or perhaps even something a little bigger.

For the family and attendees, a positive funeral experience changes their perception of funerals. For a funeral home owner, a positive funeral experience changes the trajectory of your business.

Many of my clients are intentional about creating a positive funeral experience for every family they serve, regardless of how much they spend. As a result, their business continues to grow.

Question – What is the key to creating a positive funeral experience?

Answer – Always create a beautiful shared experience.

Traditional funerals, centered around a church or chapel ceremony, are shared experiences. But what do you do for families who do not have a church?

It would help if you had a non-traditional (i.e., not church-centered) ceremony to offer them.

Many funeral homes now offer the services of a Funeral Celebrant to families who do not have a minister. Although this is a great option, I’m not convinced it is always necessary because family members or friends often want to present the life story. They just need someone to help them pull it all together.

Families need you to fill three important roles: the Creative Director, the Stage Manager, and the Master of Ceremonies.

The Creative Director helps the family design the event. The Stage Manager pulls all the pieces together and ensures everything runs like clockwork. The Master of Ceremonies is part of the performance but only to open, introduce the speakers, wrap it up, and keep everything on track.

Most of your competition has nothing to offer a family who does not want a traditional funeral. As a result, the bar isn’t set too high. You don’t have to be perfect. You just have to be better than your competition.

If you want to change the trajectory of your funeral home business, help families create beautiful shared experiences, and your business will grow….I guarantee it!!

Until next time


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