Zoom funerals: some suggestions for etiquette

The Honourable Steven Fletcher has served as a member of Parliament as part of Canada’s federal government and Manitoba’s provincial government.

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Zoom funerals… I just experienced my first one, and here are some observations.

My beloved Uncle Peter passed away this week. He died in New Zealand.

I wish to share some lessons that may be helpful to you when using Zoom or equivalent.

It happened so quickly and my family is all over the world, so we could only participate using Zoom. Unfortunately, it was done badly.

I will share with you some suggestions so you will not have to experience what my family did this week.

First, make sure everyone has the correct app.

Second, be very clear on which time zone is being used and everyone should know their local time.

Third, people should familiarize themselves with Zoom beforehand. For example – know how to mute and unmute.

Fourth, make sure everyone who is speaking at the funeral is speaking into the microphone. Sadly, at our Zoom event, somebody moved the microphone and no one online could hear what was being said.

Fifth, make sure that the funeral chapel or whomever is controlling the feed can be accessed by an alternate method of communication. It would have been very helpful if those who could not hear could in real time email, text or message the funeral staff to place the microphone appropriately.

Sixth, the funeral chapel staff should stay in the room to deal with incoming text messages, or microphone movements etc. The person at my Uncle’s funeral just disappeared for the family portion, which is also the most important segment.

Seventh, consider introducing those in attendance, especially if the numbers are manageable. The family may know each other, but they will not know the friends of the deceased if they live on the other side of the world.

Eighth, the camera needs to be focused. Perhaps more than one camera could be used. In this way, those online can look around the room or zoom in or out. We only had one view from the corner of the room.

Ninth, those on Zoom need to be aware of the lighting behind them: too much light messes up the view.

Remember people can see you during a Zoom service, unless you change the setting which would be rude in my view. In the same vein, since you are going to be seen, it is important to dress appropriately. If you wear a suit and tie in person at a funeral, then one should do the same on Zoom. This last suggestion is my personal preference, but my logic is with Zoom, it is supposed to be as if you were there, and if I was there, I would have been wearing a suit and tie regardless of whose funeral it was.

Finally, number ten. Let there be time to notify family, even though they may not be there. In this case, the service was only a couple of days after my Uncle’s passing. With another few hours, we could have contacted many more cousins and second cousins, and childhood friends etc.

If you cannot be at a funeral, there are ways to be there in spirit. My Uncle was a New Zealander through and through. His loss is felt.

I hope these ten lessons will be of help. Remember to record the ceremony!

–The Honourable Steven Fletcher

May 17, 2020

 

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