How to Host a Zoom Funeral
Zoom funerals are becoming more and more common as people adapt to COVID-related safety issues and restrictions--an as people become more accustomed to relying on technology. That being said, most people don’t know how they would livestream a funeral. While hosting a funeral over Zoom can seem daunting at first, it’s relatively easy to do, and many people say it feels just as meaningful. Here’s how to get started.
Step 1: Plan out the logistics
Before you host your Zoom funeral, you should come up with a general plan of how you’d like the funeral services to go. Knowing how you’d like the stream to go, what you’d like participants to see, and what sections of the funeral you’d like streamed will lessen the number of things you need to think about the day of the service. Consider which sections of the funeral service you’d like to stream (the viewing, the funeral service, the graveside services, the reception). You also have the option of doing a full Zoom funeral where everyone is at their own home. This is especially useful in COVID-19 times due to the restrictions on in-person attendance at funerals and other gatherings.
Another aspect to consider is the amount of attendees you’re expecting. If you have a memorial website, you can keep track of all RSVPS (including virtual RSVPs) which can help you get a headcount of who is planning on coming. If you think there might be a large number of attendees, it may be worth purchasing Zoom Pro.
Step 2: Talk to your funeral home
Many funeral homes are adapting to the needs of their customers by providing their own live stream services. Even if you don’t use the funeral home’s livestream services, you can ask for their assistance when setting up a virtual funeral on Zoom. Do they have equipment you can use? (Such as stands, microphones, a laptop., etc?) Would they be willing to monitor the stream for you to ensure it’s working? What are their suggestions for best practices?
Step 3: Share the virtual funeral information
After you’ve planned out how the stream will go, it’s time to share the URL with your friends and family. You can share the stream information privately via email or text, but it’s a good idea to also include this information on your memorial website. On Ever Loved, you can include the stream information (and other event information) by going to the Events tab of your memorial website. You should post the URL as well as the dial in information for those who might not be tuning in on their computer or who are less tech savvy.
Step 4: Designate a moderator
Choosing someone to monitor and moderate the Zoom funeral is a good idea and can prevent you from encountering technical difficulties you wouldn’t otherwise notice. If someone is monitoring the stream, they’ll be the first to know if things go awry. It’s a good idea to designate someone who is technically savvy and can help participants or troubleshoot issues as they crop up, ideally someone who isn’t heavily involved in the services themselves. The moderator can be responsible for letting people into the Zoom meeting (if you have a waiting room), monitoring the chat, ensuring the virtual funeral is going smoothly (audio is working, video is working), and setting up the stream if you’re moving locations.
Step 5: Test the zoom settings and meeting settings
Zoom offers a number of customization options and settings that can ensure the live stream is set up the way you’d like it to be. How you set your own meeting up is up to you, but here are some settings that you’ll want to consider:
- Set a password. Setting a password ensures privacy and that those coming to the stream are those that you invited. Setting a password can also confuse those who are less tech savvy, so keep that in mind.
- Choose whether participant video can be on or off. If you’d like your livestream to be focused on the funeral services (and not on someone else’s video feed), turn off the ability for participants to have their cameras on. You can change this setting later in the process if you’d like to have a section of the stream where participants can see and communicate with each other.
- Let people join before the host joins. Turn this setting on if you’re okay with (or prefer) that people can join the meeting before you’re set up and ready to go.
- Mute participants when they enter the meeting. Muting participants on entry is a great idea for a Zoom event as it’ll ensure the funeral’s stream is the primary audio, and no one unintentionally has themselves unmuted on entry.
- Enable a waiting room. This setting is best used if someone is actively monitoring the stream, otherwise participants will be stuck in a waiting room while the stream is going. Participants in the waiting room are shown a screen that lets them know they’ll be able to join the stream when the host lets them in the meeting. This can be useful if you’re keeping track of participants or want to increase privacy.
- Record the meeting. This is highly recommended as there are many scenarios where someone wants to attend a funeral service but simply can’t due to a conflict. Recording the stream lets you share it after the fact with those who weren’t able to attend live.
Step 6: Do a dry run
Set up the equipment you’ll be using the day of the service (the same audio and recording equipment) so that you can ensure it works. This is highly recommended as a lot of things can go wrong with technology, and having the services not be streamed because you didn’t do a test prior is not a situation you want to be in. Have a friend or family member attempt to join the test stream and ensure that they can hear the speakers clearly and that the video is working as intended.
If any of this sounds overwhelming or simply like something you don't want to do, it's a good idea to consider working with a company that specializes in hosting online memorial services such as GatheringUs. Working with a company that specializes in these services can save you the headache and hassle of organizing all of this on your own, especially during such a difficult time.
On the day of the service, ensure your stream moderator knows their responsibilities and has an eye on the stream to catch any errors or issues. Family and friends will likely be grateful that you took the time to set up a virtual funeral, as it lets those who can’t travel and those who are worried about COVID-19 attend the event just the same. If you don’t already have one, be sure to set up a memorial website to easily share the link with your friends and family and provide important event information.