Stewart Launches Online Planning Tool to Better Prepare Families for the Arrangement Conference

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Nearly 200 funeral and cremation service providers in 24 states have launched the Virtual Arrangement Conference, an online presentation and planning tool created to meet the needs of families beginning the funeral or cremation arrangement process.

The goal in creating the Virtual Arrangement Conference was to educate families about the funeral planning process, and do it in a modern, user-friendly way

A death in the family is one of the most stressful life events one can experience. Increasingly, those left to plan a funeral are turning to the Web as a starting point for gathering information, educating themselves and seeking guidance and advice.

Nearly 200 funeral and cremation service providers in 24 states have launched the Virtual Arrangement Conference, an online presentation and planning tool created to meet the needs of families beginning the funeral or cremation arrangement process. The interactive presentation walks families through what to expect during their meeting at the funeral home, and enables them to prepare for the decisions that must be made in advance.

"The goal in creating the Virtual Arrangement Conference was to educate families about the funeral planning process, and do it in a modern, user-friendly way," said Blake Killian, Interactive Marketing Manager, Stewart Enterprises, Inc., who managed the building of the interactive online presentation. "We did this by putting it in a tutorial-style video that walks the primary planner through the information-gathering process. It allows them to go at their own pace, so that when it comes to the in-person meeting with their funeral director, that encounter is a more meaningful one for the family."

Most families are unfamiliar with the funeral arrangement process and having to make the difficult decisions needed to plan a burial or cremation, and the accompanying service can be overwhelming. The Virtual Arrangement Conference, as an interactive tool, can facilitate the collection of necessary information that is required by the funeral home. It uses integrated forms that transmit information, such as data for the death certificate or facts to be included in the obituary, to the funeral arranger in advance of their meeting with the family.

"Grieving families come in for that first meeting and they are unprepared, which is completely normal. But not having information on hand, or having to make decisions on the spot about elements they may have no knowledge of or ever even thought about – like ways in which they want to pay tribute within the service – can add to their stress," said John Ebey, Community Relations Specialist, Restland of Dallas. "Arranging a funeral or cremation does not have to be an overwhelming process. This online tool was designed to calm their fears, educate them about what to expect and explain the process in a step-by-step fashion."

The Virtual Arrangement Conference is also a valuable resource that health care workers, hospice volunteers, and financial and estate planners can offer to families facing the loss of a loved one. Privacy and information security is ensured with highly encrypted 256-bit data.

"This is an industry that traditionally is slow to embrace new technology and where you do not typically see a lot of change" said Leigh Ann Jeter, Director of Enterprise Development, Stewart Enterprises, Inc., who leads the development of new innovative online resources, including the Virtual Arrangement Conference, for families Stewart serves. "We are innovating in this way for a generation, and future generations, for whom it is natural to turn to online resources when beginning such an unfamiliar and daunting task. It lets families get more out of the meeting with their funeral arranger, such as focusing on how to memorialize their loved one, customize the service or learn about multiple cremation options; or simply spend less time planning, and instead be with family and friends during that time."

The Virtual Arrangement Conference was built with family members in mind. It is an easy-to-use online tool that explains the steps involved in the funeral planning process. In this way, the Virtual Arrangement Conference is an educational tool first, and a planning tool second. Users are not required to submit any information to the funeral home, and may simply choose to view the presentation solely as a learning exercise. However, hundreds of families have already used the Virtual Arrangement Conference to begin the funeral planning process for themselves.

"Families have already told me it has made the funeral arranging process easier," said Ebey. "It was convenient for them because they were able to access it online during a time that was convenient for them, and since it can be accessed from anywhere in the world where there's an Internet connection, even families that live miles apart can come together online and start the conversation. They could save what they had done, then come back to it when they had more information or had talked with other family members and made a decision. Ultimately, they are able to get more out of the funeral service because they are able to focus more on planning the tribute, and less on the paperwork. I've noticed it shortens the time it takes to make arrangements, so families have more time together focusing on supporting each other. I am proud to be able to offer this; there wasn't and isn't anything else like this available for
families."

The Virtual Arrangement Conference tool is available through funeral homes in 156 cities across the U.S. and Puerto Rico, including: Baltimore; Dallas; Greenville, S.C.; Kansas City, Mo.; Omaha, Neb; Little Rock and Hot Springs, Ark.; Orlando and Tampa, Fla.; Portland, Ore.; San Diego; and Seattle.

The planning tool can be accessed through each funeral home's Web site under its "A Death has Occurred" section. To find a Stewart facility nearest you, please click here: stewartenterprises.com/locations.cfm

Media Contact:
Rosa Mangiardi
Continuum Crew
415.728.2113

This press release was distributed through PR Web by Human Resources Marketer (SeniorCare Marketer: http://www.seniorcaremarketer.com) on behalf of the company listed above.

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Rosa Mangiardi