| Read time: 6 mins
At the risk of sounding somewhat obvious, the great benefit of maps is that they, well, help you to find things.
Placing their greater value and purpose to the side for one small moment (we’ll return to those), that basic fact is one of the main reasons they are one of your greatest assets when planning events in your cemetery.
In redefining their role as places, not just for the dead, but for the living to remember, reflect, commemorate, and even celebrate, events can help cemeteries to engage with their communities, raising their profile by attracting new visitors to share in new experiences.
Read more about strategies to engage with your community.
Not all maps are created equal
Digital maps hold many specific, practical benefits for cemeteries, some of which you can discover here, but broadly speaking, and in this context, they give you the clearest, most accurate picture of your site layout, exactly where your cemetery plots are, and who is interred within them; and when linked to information within your cemetery management system, open up a range of other benefits and opportunities.
Their real draw, then, over paper maps, is their accuracy, clarity, accessibility and - in terms of hosting events - mobility.
So let’s look at events from start to finish, from the planning to the opportunity and some real world, with 10 practical benefits of digital maps.
For any event to be successful, it requires careful planning and preparation - helping you to manage your time, your people, and your resources. And cemetery events are no different.
#1 A clear view of your layout
Do you have adequate space for large crowds, nooks for smaller gatherings, or pathways or walkways for walking or running events?
The kind of event you hold and the number of people you invite will be determined in part by the space you have.
High resolution digital maps providing a clear view of your site, will help you to clearly visualize your cemetery’s layout as a whole. In doing so, you can evaluate your space and identify suitable areas and the right locations for different types of events.
You can also start to see where you might want to place essential elements of infrastructure such as stands, chairs, platforms etc. Importantly, you can also start to see where you might want to place staff throughout the grounds to provide help where and when it’s needed. And of course, in terms of accessibility, you want to ensure the space provides free and safe movement for visitors throughout your site.
#2 Managing risk and maintenance
It goes without saying that your space must be safe for visitors to attend. Cracked paths, overhanging tree limbs, unsecure benches, or unstable memorials - digital maps can help you to identify potential hazards, and because they can be viewed via tablet devices, it’s much easier from a practical perspective for your staff to locate the areas in need of attention.
Using an iPad app, you can walk the grounds to assess any places of risk, find where they are and can track the progress of any work that needs to be carried out as a result.
In short, pinpointing locations of plots on digital maps, with the mobility to record risk assessment information when on site will help to improve communication, increase efficiencies and provide you with smarter workflows.
Undoubtedly, there will be a number of maintenance projects to be carried out in advance of an event.
Again, digital maps can help you to communicate the exact locations of where work is to be carried out to grounds crews. Using a cemetery management system, tasks can be linked to online digital mapping tools, allowing you to track and update job status in real time.
#3 Memorial placements
Events of commemoration or remembrance may require some form of memorial placement. It’s important that those are carried out in a timely way, and, of course, placed in the correct location.
Thinking of the specific example of flag placement on Memorial Day in the US, whether carried out by your own team or by volunteer groups, it’s something that can take a lot of time and effort.
That can be due in part to having to communicate plot location information using hand drawn paper maps, and the practicalities of walking the grounds, sometimes over long distances, to identify military headstones, plaques etc.
Digital maps linked to record information, enables you to run filtered searches to identify all of the veteran plots within your cemetery. You can then create lists to distribute, as well as provide clear and easy to follow directions by dropping virtual pins on each location.
Depending on the type of event you’re holding, it may be the case that you may still be providing burials on the day. It’s therefore important that both your staff and resources are managed appropriately and sensitively to maintain your focus on where it needs to be, and that events are scheduled for the best time.
Your cemetery management system’s diary or schedule will tell you what and when is taking place, while your digital map will tell you exactly where it is - allowing you to identify ahead of time which areas may be off-limits or out of bounds, as well as what your staffing requirements will be on the day.
Knowing exactly where, when and what will be taking place will allow you to manage your resources and your timings accordingly.
Coordinating and communicating effectively with your partners can help to ensure that your day runs as smoothly as possible.
#5 Set up
Again, this comes back to the importance of being able to provide a clear picture of your layout.
With clear visualizations of your layout ahead of time, your vendors will be best equipped to manage their own resources - allow them to see the space available and, from a practical point of view, be able to find it easily on the day.
You may wish to print off and provide hard copy maps or email the details to them. On the day itself, staff provided with tablets can also be on hand to direct and coordinate as needed.
From your own perspective, a clear view of your layout will also help you to manage and allocate space, ensuring that your partners have the space they need, avoiding any misunderstandings on the day.
#6 Facilitating new events
Digital mapping can help, not only to facilitate and coordinate events, but may also provide ideas for new partnership opportunities.
Identifying natural habitats, for example, might form the basis of bird watching groups; while being able to identify persons of interest and pinpoint their locations, could form the basis of insightful walking tours with local historical or genealogical societies.
Photographs of headstones, linked to plot locations and record information can help in the planning of the event, allowing tour operators to conceive how the event will work from a practical perspective, creating routes etc, while allowing them to print off and provide materials to use with the group.
From a practical point of view, directions to each location on a tablet device will help them lead the group around the site on the day.
Ultimately the most important thing to get right when hosting an event is the visitor experience. And there are many ways in which digital maps and cemetery software can help ensure that experience is a positive one.
How to find a grave in a cemetery?
When we think about how digital maps can help in hosting events, this is perhaps one of things we might think of first. When onsite, it’s important for visitors to be able to find their way around easily - whether that’s to a place of interest, or to locate the grave of their loved one. That may not be a straightforward task if they’re unfamiliar with the site, so having information on your layout and on specific plot locations readily available is important.
Staff on hand with digital maps on tablet devices is a quick and easy way to show visitors exactly where they need to go, helping to create a more seamless experience.
Before, the process of helping visitors find the graves of loved ones might have involved going back and forth between the office, or looking through large reams of paper records. Now, a quick search on a handheld device can pinpoint exact locations and provide easy to follow directions.
See how Inglewood Park Cemetery used the Plotbox ipad app on Memorial Day.
Prior to the event, cemeteries may also wish to print out information related to amenities, such as car parking, bathrooms etc. to ensure that when visitors arrive on site they have everything they need to understand the layout of the event.
In terms of providing a more personal experience for families, having your digital map linked to deceased records will allow you to print maps for them in advance, including directions to plots of loved ones, as well as a range of related information.
#9 Public records
Which brings us to just one of the reasons why making your deceased records available online is a good idea.
A public portal such as Everafter will allow family members to search online for the location of their one’s grave and be provided with clear directions, which they can print off in advance of attending, should they wish.
That helps them to come prepared, while also taking some of the pressure off your team on the day.
We’ve also seen cemeteries placing QR codes on site linked to Everafter so that families can quickly and easily pull this information up on a phone or table - again, helping to provide them with a much more seamless, interactive experience.
Now at this point, you may be asking yourself if there is anything a digital map can’t do, so let’s finish on what they can do in terms of maximizing the opportunities that events can provide.
You may have a number of goals in mind when creating events - these may be to build awareness of your services, it could be to increase engagement, or, as people discover what you have to offer, to help generate leads and pre-need sales.
#10 Streamlining sales processes
Not everything needs to be about sales at all times, of course, but visitors on site may wish to speak to you about their own pre-purchase requirements, and having a digital map is good for two specific reasons: 1. It allows your sales counselors to look up plots that may be available close to loved ones, and 2. It provides a clear visualization for the family member, removing, as we say, barriers to sales, providing all of the information they need to make a decision.
Having this information readily available, not only helps to streamline the sales process for the cemetery, but because digital maps are updated in real time, it reduces the risk of mis-sold or double-sold plots.
In summary, then, it’s the ease of access to layout, plot and record information provided by digital maps that helps you to plan, manage and coordinate your events with greater clarity and efficiency. This accessibility, and share-ability, is what also helps to ensure that you can communicate effectively with your teams, your partners and your visitors.
Watch how digital mapping has helped Inglewood Park Cemetery to provide a positive experience for families and visitors during Memorial Day: