Since the pandemic, everybody from Kindergartners to grandparents have become familiar with Zoom. But is Zoom a good choice for livestreaming a funeral?  Generally speaking, the answer is no.  Zoom, while wonderful for remote corporate meetings, family catch-up sessions or even remote wine tastings, can be a bit difficult to negotiate for funeral livestreams – not to mention risky in terms of possible unwanted guests (hacking).

Here are 6 reasons why you might want to avoid using Zoom for funeral livestreaming:

1. Zoom is still hackable: During the pandemic, most of us heard stories about Zoom classrooms being entered or hacked, and children being “Zoom-bombed” with at best silly, or worst pornographic, racist or antisemitic content.  Sadly, this problem has happened at funerals too – even those that are password protected.  Despite improvement to security, malevolent actors have been known to join Zoom funerals unwanted – and to wreak havoc. In one recent case, a password protected Zoom of a Jewish funeral was hacked and remote attendees were Zoom bombed with antisemitic content; the hacking lasted ten minutes until the hosts were able to take back control. At another funeral, remote attendees were subjected to pornography and racist taunts for twenty minutes when their Zoom livestream was hacked.  Most grieving families do not want to take this risk and have their loved one’s final remembrance ruined by malevolent actors.

2. Funeral hosts need to be experts in Zooming to adapt and customize Zoom for funerals: While most of us have done some Zooming, it has usually been in the context of work meetings or possibly family gatherings (where we have had to explain to less tech savvy relatives how to unmute themselves). Funerals, however, raise an entirely new set of concerns.  Do we want to keep everyone unmuted and risk disruption if somebody accidentally unmutes his or herself at an inopportune moment?  Or do we want to mute everybody and simply unmute and mute different readers or speakers at different times during the funeral – and if so, who will manage the muting and unmuting?  Do we want guests to use the chat box or not?  Do we want to use the waiting room to help reduce the possibility of unwanted guests (see 1, Zoom is still hackable). These are just a few of the questions hosts will need to ask – and there will be nobody there to help, which leads me to my next point.

3. Zoom does not offer in-the-minute technical support:  What if your Zoom funeral was hacked?  How would you respond?  Zoom support won’t be on hand to tell you. Or what if, quite simply, Aunt Marge forgot to unmute herself and can be heard talking during the eulogy? Or if guests don’t know which view to use?  Who is going to handle these technical glitches or questions in the moment?  The short answer is – no one. The longer answer is – someone, either a family member or friend, or the funeral director, will have to manage the entire Zoom and be on hand to address difficulties or answer questions.  For family members and friends, this monitoring function deprives them of the opportunity to fully participate in their loved one’s memorial.  For the funeral director, livestream monitoring is an added burden to manage, on top of all the other elements – the flowers, the procession, the music etc.  Only TribuCast® monitors all funerals in-the-moment to ensure that no glitches (or failures) occur.

4. Zooms cannot include guest books or funeral programs; has limited personalization:  While there is some opportunity to share the screen to include a slideshow of photos, or possibly to share an obituary via shared screen prior to the service, there is no means for remote attendees to sign a guest book and leave condolences, except awkwardly via Zoom chat.  Funeral programs also can’t be provided via Zoom except by stopping the video; the program would most likely need to be sent separately so guests can follow along and know what’s happening. Finally, there is no way to share other information that might add context, such as scripture readings, newspaper articles, poems or even awards.  In summary, personalization options are somewhat limited compared to a live service or TribuCast®, which has a unique system of content windows through which families can share memorabilia and other touchpoints.

5. Zoom really isn’t free for funerals:  Zoom is often touted as “free for up to 100 attendees.”  But it’s only free for the first forty minutes unless you are already a subscriber.  Funerals almost always exceed that time limit, so be prepared to pay for at least one month’s subscription – not a huge deal, but not as cost-free as you might think.

6. Finally, Zoom was not designed for funerals:  Bottom line, Zoom was made to help businesses hold meetings online – not for funeral livestreaming.  With care, you can retool the platform to your needs, but you will need to think carefully before you proceed.  There are hacking risks, Zoom fluency issues and technical pitfalls that you must be aware of as you plan. Consider the remote attendee of a recent Zoom funeral who took their laptop into the bathroom during a service and failed to realize their camera was still on… Who is going to monitor and manage a crisis like that? Finally, there aren’t a lot of ways to personalize the Zoom to honor your loved one’s memory. If you decide to go ahead with Zoom, it is best to test it beforehand as best you can, so you can anticipate any possible glitches, plan for a response, and ensure that you are Zoom ready on the day of the funeral.  That’s a LOT of work, worry and time when a company like TribuCast® can basically do it all for you – and ensure the funeral livestream takes place without a glitch.

We hope that this summary has helped you understand some of the risks of Zooming a funeral.  However, there are many other options for funeral livestreaming.  If you would like to compare and contrast the different livestreaming platforms, both general and purpose-built for funerals, take a look at our Definitive Guide to Livestreaming Funerals for the pros and cons of each platform.   We are confident it will help you more easily navigate the various options for livestreaming your loved one’s funeral or memorial service.

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