How to Organize a Zoom Online Memorial

While we are all adjusting to businesses being closed... A friend told me she lost her uncle last week and after hearing her say that her family would not be able to have a funeral, I was reminded of one more thing I take for granted. A funeral can be a very important part of the grieving process and NOW that was going to need to look different...  In 2018, I decided to have an online Zoom Memorial for my Father who passed away in August of that year. It was so well received by my family, who lives all over the United States, that it actually lasted for 8 hours (I have a VERY chatty family). What happened was so wonderful, we had a forum where people could share their stories AND pictures (via screen share) of my Dad and all of our relatives. The younger generation learned SO much about their family and the older generation while comparing remembrances... where able to fill in details to “the rest of the story”… We were able to see our family history in a whole new light. I was also able to record it, for others to be able to see later and capture those precious family stories.

During this time of quarantine, I wanted to provide a list of actionable items for you to use if this is something that you and your family would like to do. Here are my steps of action to host an Online Memorial Service:

  1. Preparing for a Zoom Online Memorial
  2. Recommended Zoom Meeting Settings (taking into account the recent “Zoom Bombings”)
  3. What to Put in the Zoom Invitation
  4. List of Things to Practice in Zoom Before Holding the Memorial

 

Preparing for a Zoom Online Memorial:

  • Create an Obituary and post it on Facebook (Facebook has become the place where most people receive their information and it is the fastest way to let as many people as possible know what happened). The one I created was not very formal, but gave an account of my Dad’s life. Here is a website with Obituary Templates: http://templatelab.com/obituary-templates/
  • Also email the obituary to people who are not on Facebook, encourage people to forward it, and tell other relatives and friends.
  • Ask a Pastor/clergyman to say something, perhaps in the beginning of the memorial (seeing what date/time they can participate could factor into your picking a date and time).
  • Create a Second Facebook Post/and Email that announces the date and time of your online memorial. You may want to make this a private Facebook message to keep it small or a regular post that invites all Facebook Friends. MOST important => ask everyone for an email address!! (You will send the invite out that way – I am employing lowest common denominator here, using email as the Zoom invitation sender)
  • Start a spreadsheet (Excel, Google Sheets) with all the names and email addresses
  • Scan in all your family photos you want to share on the computer you will be using to host!!
  • Create a PRO Zoom account (at the time of writing it was $14.99/month and you can cancel after ONE month!! Please DO NOT use the free account for this!!) https://Zoom.us
    • Decide how many people will be participating (if more than 100, here are your paid PRO account options):

Zoom additional people prices

Recommended Zoom Meeting Settings

  • Schedule the Zoom Online Memorial meeting with the following suggested meeting settings (easiest place is to log into your account at https://Zoom.us):
      • Topic: Give the meeting a memorable name => John Smith’s Online Memorial Gathering
      • Description: Write a little something about what will take place
      • When: Date and time (The invite will show YOUR time zone, you will want to remind people, not in your time zone, what their time will be!!)
      • Duration: You can guesstimate and because you bought a Zoom license you will not have to worry about being bounced out at 40 minutes (like free accounts) – also you will be able to stay as long as you want no matter what time you officially set here
      • Time Zone: YOUR Time Zone
      • Registration: No registrationZoom Bombing
      • Password: If you want a password…. Oooooooook, but that is just ONE more thing you will have to manage. Also as of this blog writing, using the hyperlink URL (instead of the meeting ID) was able to BIPASS the password... As a rule => I do not set a password.

      Zoom Bombing

      • Video: Host = on, Participant = on  (these are the “less to think about” settings)
      • Audio: BOTH
      • Meeting Options:
        • Enable join before host:  typically, I like this – if I (as the host) show up late or people want to talk before it all gets started, then they can get in without your having to login. But for a memorial – the host will probably want a little more control and can always login to the meeting early
        • Mute participants upon entry:  (I never use)
        • Enable waiting room:  IF you are worried about crashers… this is THE option I would use to manage that => BUT => JUST know it will then be on the Meeting Host to manage and not leave people hanging… (ie: guests not being able to get in the meeting until the host lets them in…)
        • Only authenticated users can join:  I never use – it is for users who have a Zoom account and can logged into it. I would say => back to my “lowest common denominator” approach
        • Breakout Room pre-assign:  Really COOL for business meetings – but you most likely will not use it for a memorial
        • Record the meeting automatically:  I like this!! – if you want to record: enable and chose => On the local computer
          • Setting up where Zoom puts your recorded video file!
            • IF you choose the above Record the Meeting Automatically setting, then please ALSO do the following steps
            • Open the downloaded Zoom application on your computer  that you will be HOSTING the memorial Zoom meeting from (not the Zoom.us website)
            • Go to Zoom Preferences (or “Settings”)
            • Choose Recordings
            • On the top right choose where you want all of your recorded Zoom videos to be placed
            • Here are my fav settings

    Zoom Video Recording Settings

            • Done! Close the settings dialogue box

What to Put in the Zoom Invitation

  • Send out the invite for everyone to join you in this Zoom Memorial "meeting". HIGHLY recommend/suggest that guests use their desktop/laptop computers to join, this will take the pressure OFF of you to be trouble shooting the people who are on their phones and do not see all the Zoom controls!!!!!!
    • When writing the Invite Email inspire people to scan in their FAV family photos – so that they will be able to screen share them – THIS is Amazing!!! (If they want to share photos, they will need to download the free Zoom app – see the Bullet 7b above for download instructions)
    • To grab the Zoom Email Invitation text
      • Login to your PRO Zoom account => https://Zoom.us (in a browser like Chrome)
      • On the left menu click on Meetings
      • In the list of meetings, click on the meeting name (it is a hyperlink)
      • In the MIDDLE right side of the meeting settings info you will see a button that says Copy  the Invitation

Copying the Zoom Email Invitation Text

 

            • Click Copy the Invitation button
            • Close the dialogue
            • Open your email program
            • Paste the invitation text in the body of the email AND READ below
              • In the invitation text delete all of the unnecessary Zoom information! (There is a paragraph that sometimes appears asking you to download a calendar app => you DO NOT need it!) Below shows the text they generate AND what you should delete to trim the text down to essentials:

 

All of this:

Gina Johnston is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: My Meeting

Time: Apr 1, 2020 06:00 PM Pacific Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting

https://xyz.zoom.us/j/6625571410

Meeting ID: 662 557 1410

One tap mobile

+13126266799,,6625571410# US (Chicago)

+16468769923,,6625571410# US (New York)

Dial by your location

+1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)

+1 646 876 9923 US (New York)

+1 346 248 7799 US (Houston)

+1 669 900 6833 US (San Jose)

+1 253 215 8782 US

+1 301 715 8592 US

Meeting ID: 662 557 1410

Find your local number: https://xyz.zoom.us/u/aejAXdRqNV

 

Should only be this:

Gina Johnston is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: My Meeting

Time: Apr 1, 2020 06:00 PM Pacific Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting

https://xyz.zoom.us/j/6625571410&lt

Meeting ID: 662 557 1410

 

            • Notice above how I made the meeting hyperlink big and BOLD!!
            • Now you can add any text you would like to invite them, including (if you want) the following instructions to help them participate
          • Here is a list of instructions that you can add to the guest invitation to get them ready to have the BEST experience. Do they HAVE to do all these things? NO, but it will allow them to have the best time.

 

Helpful things to have to participate in the Online Memorial:

  1. A computer with internet access
  2. A webcam (this is ideal, make sure it has both a camera and mic) - phones/tablets/laptops typically come with both
  3. Speakers can be helpful
  4. Get the free Zoom computer or mobile app (the BEST experience will be from a computer)
  5. A LARGE monitor could/would be helpful to see everyone => Ha! (Think Brady Bunch)
  6. To test the installed Zoom application before the gathering go to this link: Test Zoom https://zoom.us/test

Before the memorial practice Zoom with another person!

Things to practice:

        • How to Screen Share
        • How to Share Sound: If you want to play a video or music on your computer, then you will want to check the Share Sound box on the bottom left of the Share dialogue box (pictured below) that pops up.
        • How to mute - - A fast way to mute ALL => [alt] + [m] PC keyboard shortcut or [command] + [control] + [m] Mac keyboard shortcut (people do not realize how distracting noises can be)
        • How to share a PowerPoint presentation – if needed (here is a great tutorial on how to do that – skip to min 1:25 for the PowerPoint directions): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WmMSXOQVQs4
        • How to show in Gallery View (makes the screen look like the “Brady Bunch” everyone is equal in video size) AND “how” to explain that to everyone participating
        • Practice logging into a Zoom meeting on a mobile phone and Tablet!!! VERY important these interfaces are a lot different and Guests will need to be familiar with “swiping” to see all of the options available and all of the people in the meeting. (example: tablets only show 9 people at a time)
        • Practice recording and KNOW where Zoom is going to save the recording (follow my set up instructions above!!) on your computer.
        • Decide where you are going to sit with your computer and check your background (I personally would not use a “virtual background” for an online memorial, as I believe... you will want to be authentic)
        • Feel free to contact me with any questions via email!! ALSO, during this time of COVID-19 lockdown, I would like to offer a free 45 minute Zoom consulting time to my Facebook Friends and LinkedIn First Degree Contacts to help out with any questions regarding what I have recommended. I am extending this consultation offer to my Facebook Friends and LinkedIn Contacts to start, but anyone can email me with questions. AND for the record => I have ZERO intention of making money off setting up Zoom Online Memorials during the COVID-19 Lockdown, I would just like to help families in need.

If anyone has MORE things to add that would be helpful, PLEASE by all means add them in the comments below!!  My heart goes out to all who are suffering loss at this time.

5 Responses

  1. Thank you Gina! I am forwarding this step-by-step guide to my friend who just lost her mother.
    • Gina Johnston
      Terri Oh my heart breaks, I am so sorry to hear that!! Please let me know if your friend needs ANY explanations on how to set the Zoom memorial up!
  2. Del
    Gina, wow! Very informative and well thought. Love how you put it all together. I will forward this to info. To my friends. Great job as always!
  3. Jay
    Hi Gina, I really wish I’d found this post a few weeks ago. I lost my grandmother recently and set up a zoom memorial for everyone and the feedback was how personal it was for everyone even though we were scattered throughout the country. A couple of additional things I learned that might be worth sharing: 1) Have an agenda of who will give eulogies etc. but leave enough time to allow others the speak. Stories will remind others of their favorite stories. 2) music can be a challenge. We hoped to sing together, but that was limited by internet speeds and did nothing to honor Nana. So we had one person sing and everyone else sang along in mute. 3) I held two sessions in the days ahead of the service to get people who’d never used zoom before and started the service 30 minutes prior just to be safe. 4) It was difficult to handle the technical execution of the zoom memorial while also grieving. If you can find someone you trust to handle that it’s worth considering. 5) we created a video of pictures of my grandmother throughout her life. It was 7 minutes long and very emotional. In the event of an extremely emotional portion of the funeral, have a transition period between the end of the event and a speaker. The time to walk to the podium in a traditional setting can act as a natural transition to allow the speaker time to compose themselves. However, in a zoom service, the transition is instant and the speaker is highlighted when in speaker view. A song or poem can be brought in to serve as this bridge. 6) use private chat to prepare speakers and let them know when to unmute. Anyway, those are some of the things I learned. Hope it helps. Jay 6)
    • Gina Johnston
      WOW JAY!! Your added information was WONDERFUL!! What heartfelt suggestions you gave!! I DID think about suggesting people have another person "running" the Zoom gathering, instead of a person who is grieving!! ALSO practicing with people who are not tech-savvy days ahead of time would be very helpful too!! GREAT tip!! So true!! Being able to make others the Host and making sure they check share sound might help some of the audio issues you mentioned. I just appreciate your heart in sharing ways to make a Zoom Memorial BETTER!! I believe this bog article has legs, as my Father's memorial was before COVID. Now that Zoom is part of our everyday vocabulary, I hope people are able to read this to get more insight on the nuances of using this online platform to hold a memorial. THANK YOU again!!

Leave a comment