Ninety percent of funeral or memorial services held today have close family and friends who are unable to attend. We sat down with TribuCast® co-founder Bruce Likly to discuss his thoughts on the changing funeral landscape, the inspiration behind TribuCast’s patent-pending remote attendance software, and the future of live-streaming funeral technology.
When did your first become interested in funeral and memorial webcasting? What did you initially consider the pros and cons of funeral live streaming?
LIVECLOUDTV™, the parent company of TribuCast®, started looking into funeral and memorial webcasting in late 2016. We were searching for ways to use our patent-pending, live-streaming technology to help people attend events remotely when they couldn’t be there in person. After an in-depth analysis, we determined that being able to attend a funeral remotely, through a memorial webcast, would probably have a significant impact on people’s lives. It’s one of those things we most often feel guilty for not attending.
What made the webcasting of funerals so compelling?
I think it’s because people know they can always say congratulations at some point in the future when something good happens, such as a wedding or graduation or bar/bat mitzvah. And that’s not really the case with a funeral. Sharing grief, offering condolences and saying good-bye feels most heartfelt and effective in the moment, when grief has its tightest grip. We wanted to create the opportunity for a sensitive, private funeral broadcast that truly pays tribute to the lost loved one and does so in real time.
How did people initially respond to the idea of funeral livestreaming?
Like us, many people thought that webcasting or livestreaming memorials and funerals made perfect sense, except for one problem: webcasting such a personal, somber event could make people feel uncomfortable or feel inappropriate. As we tested and explored the power of our technology, we realized these initial impressions were correct: funeral livestreaming and memorial webcasting IS uncomfortable, especially if the memorial is live streamed with no additional context. That’s why we created TribuCast®: we wanted our solution to function as more than just a funeral webcast. TribuCast® allows families to curate materials – family photos, anecdotes, memorabilia – to give viewers a meaningful context in which to view the funeral.
What are some key facts that funeral homes and directors need to know about funeral webcasting in general and TribuCast® in particular? What tips or advice can you offer?
What we’ve learned, and most people tend to agree with is “cameras on caskets are creepy – without context.” Just watching a service doesn’t work if the camera focuses solely on the loved ones remains and all you hear, and experience is what is being said by the celebrant. For those attending a service in person, they have the benefits of reading the program, following along with the readings and lyrics of the music, they can look around and see who else is there, they can see the family photos and flowers displayed at the entrance and around the sanctuary. All these touch points provide perspective, warmth, support and… context. The most effective webcasts are those where funeral directors keep the remote attendees’ needs in mind, particularly their need for more context, when planning a funeral webcast or TribuCast®. Make sure you include the lectern where the eulogist will speak. Go wide to show the flowers and the beauty of the church or other sacred space. Most importantly though, make sure the funeral broadcast is highly personalized, especially for those who attend remotely. Experiencing the loss of a loved one is hard. You want to do everything you can to make sure the experience of attending a funeral or memorial service remotely is as unique as the person who has passed.
How can you personalize a memorial webcast?
That’s part of the problem with traditional funeral webcasting products and services – they don’t offer personalization. TribuCast® makes personalization very easy and compelling using its patent-pending context portals™ that literally and figuratively frame the livestream window. Through our context portals™, family and loved ones can share pictures, honors and awards, artwork, favorite quotations or poems, etc. The possibilities for personalization are limitless. Many of our clients have said that exploring the personalized content in a TribuCast® gave them a deeper appreciation of the person they’ve lost and a stronger sense of closure. Some even felt they got more from the TribuCast® than other, in-person services they had attended.
What inspired you to create TribuCast®? Did you experience a funeral being live streamed or did you simply perceive the need for a tasteful form of funeral webcasting?
TribuCast® was inspired by the importance of funerals, the value they bring to those who attend them and the reality that in today’s world, sometimes you can’t always be there in person. This is because according to the US Census and Bureau of Labor Statistics people move and change jobs more than 11 times in their lives and that leaves 90% of the services held today with someone not being able to be there. We knew we could help with this and wanted to offer a secure, private and tasteful way for grieving loved ones to be present and to participate in the communal mourning process when they lose someone they loved.
Can you describe in greater detail how TribuCast® differs from other forms of memorial broadcasting?
TribuCast® isn’t like other forms of memorial broadcasting. TribuCast is unique because it is much more than just a funeral livestream. It’s truly a tribute to the deceased, one that can really show who that person was and what he or she meant to others. Some clients have likened experiencing a TribuCast® to experiencing a combined tribute, memorial and funeral. Prior to the service, friends and loved ones often explore the context portalsTM – the pictures, awards, memorabilia, charitable interests, etc much like they would at a wake or memorial and by spending time with this carefully curated material, they enter the service feeling more deeply connected to the deceased and more emotionally ready for the funeral broadcast. After the service, they can spend more time in the world of their loved one, should they feel the need, by engaging again with the highly personalized content and by watching the service again if they choose. Additionally, unlike most funeral webcasting and livestreaming services available today, TribuCast® is a private, portable, pay-per-use system. This means that only those who are given the unique website address can view it and it can be livestreamed and viewed from anywhere there is sufficient Wi-Fi or cellular service and funeral directors only have to pay for it when they need it.
Have you ever used TribuCast® to livestream the funeral of a loved one? What kind of feedback did you get from family and friends about funeral broadcasting?
TribuCast® has been used hundreds of times across the US, Canada and overseas and has been viewed by remote attendees on every continent (except for Antarctica but I expect that is just a matter of time). And yes, I have used TribuCast® personally as well. We used TribuCast® for my mom’s memorial service which was held in Canada on the same day my cousin’s son’s wedding was held in the United States. The timing and location conflict were impossible to overcome and very hard on my Uncle and my cousins. TribuCast® solved that issue. Included in my mom’s TribuCast® was information about my dad, who had passed away eight years prior, and their life together. It was a very powerful and effective way to include everyone even though we were not physically together and to remember all the great times we’ve had. The feedback we received from our family and the families we’ve served is consistent. To start, there are usually one or two people in the family who vocalize tremendous misgivings over their inability to be there in person and are deeply appreciative when they can attend the service remotely. But families are usually surprised at the final number of remote attendees, which can be quite large and how moved they are by the experience. We often see between 60 and 90 attendees who would have missed the funeral or memorial completely were it not for the TribuCast®. Many families refer to the experience as “priceless” and on several occasions have told us they would have gladly paid more than they did for their TribuCast®. Families also express appreciation for how easy it is to view a TribuCast® compared to Facebook LIVE, Periscope, Facetime and YouTube LIVE – and how much more tasteful, personal and private it feels.
What kinds of feedback are you getting from funeral directors regarding TribuCast® and its specific technology for funeral webcasting?
Funeral directors routinely tell us how easy the TribuCast® system is to personalize and use and how much appreciation families express. They especially like how portable it is and that it is a pay-per-use system. TribuCast® also makes it easy for family members to watch their TribuCast® later if they couldn’t watch it live.
Nursing and assisted living facilities have traditionally shied away from memorial webcasting, even though watching a service, particularly as a community, can really help older, homebound people to process and heal from a loss. How did / does TribuCast® win such clients over?
We let TribuCast® speak for itself. History shows us that it is easy for some people to shy away from new technology and new experiences – until they experience their benefits. Once a facility and its residents experience the TribuCast® of a loved resident who has passed away they instantly recognize the power and importance of the experience in the community’s grieving process.
How did you come up with the name TribuCast® and why didn’t you just call it funeral webcasting like other groups?
TribuCast® is so much more than just a funeral webcast or livestream so it was important to us that the name we chose reflected that. TribuCast® is based in the belief that every life is unique and special and includes a story that deserves to be told and shared. Given how mobile our society has become, sharing such a tribute electronically and in-real-time, if possible, is extremely beneficial and increasingly necessary.
How much growth do you see in this market, given how much more common it is to see funerals and other major life events livestreamed?
People are just beginning to think about livestreaming and webcasting funerals. The technology has evolved to the point where, in the case of TribuCast®, it’s less expensive, easier to use than the alternatives and highly personalized. In short, we can finally deliver to ordinary people the kind of funeral webcast that once would have been reserved only for the rich or the famous. We can livestream a memorial and, thanks to the innovative technology of TribuCast®, we can also showcase the deceased’s most important life touch points and say goodbye in a powerful, dignified and impactful way.
How do you perceive potential competitors using technologies like Facebook LIVE to do funeral broadcasting? What is the TribuCast® advantage?
There is really no comparison between the highly personalized TribuCast® model for remote funeral attendance and other platforms. Other technologies, such as Facebook LIVE, YouTube LIVE, Facetime, or Periscope, are impersonal, highly commercialized, and as we have learned, not very private. The advantage of TribuCast® is that it can be highly personalized, it is not commercialized (meaning you won’t see third party advertisements and user data isn’t sold), it is easy to use for both the family and the funeral director and it can be as private or public as the family and funeral director want it to be.
To learn more about TribuCast visit //tribucast.com