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October 27, 2010   Email to Friend 

Destinations' Smart Named Among Top 20 U.S. Meeting Managers
Debra Davis

David Smart, director of Alfa's in-house travel and meetings service, Destinations.
David Smart, director of Alfa's in-house travel and meetings service, Destinations, has been named one of the top 20 meeting managers in America by Corporate Meetings and Incentives magazine.

The elite "20 Changemakers" was created a few years ago to recognize individuals who gained visibility among their peers by initiating strategic meetings and management programs. They are called "Changemakers" for their ability to create positive change -- both in their careers and in their industries, according to the magazine.

"It's wonderful that David has been recognized for the terrific job he does for Alfa and the Alabama Farmers Federation," said Alfa President Jerry Newby. "We've known for years that David was among the very best in the business, and this recognition shares what we know with the rest of the country and with his peers."

The Changemakers' list includes conference organizers and meeting planners from some of the most prestigious companies in the United States, including Microsoft, McDonald's, John Hancock Financial, Eli Lilly & Co., Underwriters Laboratories, Nestlé's Business Services and Raytheon. Smart was the only Alabamian to make the list.

"It has been a very humbling experience to receive this recognition and to know that my peers in the industry nominated and selected Destinations for this award," Smart said. "It's a credit to Alfa, really, to receive this recognition. It's great to work for a company that allows us to produce events that are done professionally. These events, whether they are meetings or conferences, contribute to achieving the company's overall goals."

Herman Watts, Alfa executive vice president of marketing, has worked with Smart for more than 30 years planning events for the insurance company. Watts said he wasn't surprised that Smart was recognized as a top professional in the industry. "No one at Alfa is better at what they do than David is," Watts said. "Having worked closely with David for over 30 years, he continues to amaze me with his organizational skills and his ability to plan and deliver a first-class product that meshes superbly with our corporate objective. The industry is now recognizing him for what all of us at Alfa have known for years... he is the best! "

Smart and the three staff members who work for Destinations are responsible for meetings and events at local, state, national and international venues. Those events could be for as few as a dozen people up to hundreds of attendees and their families. "I am very thankful to have a capable, competent and dedicated staff to implement these events regarding our specific responsibilities.

"But there's a lot more to what we do than just planning an event," Smart said. "We collect, maintain and manage all the meeting data that provides for effective management of the event. By researching locations, facilities and amenities that are available, we can create a competitive environment that allows us to receive the best price."

Smart said the meeting management role has evolved from tactical and logistical to a multifaceted management position, requiring strategic planning, benchmarking, financial and risk management, procurement, contracting and being an event solutions provider.

Smart, 62, began his career at Alfa in 1976. He said he enjoys every aspect of his job, comparing it to putting together the pieces of a puzzle. He said he doesn't try to book the cheapest meetings, but looks at the total quality to meet objectives for every event.

Smart and his wife, Anna, live in Montgomery and have two grown sons. He said his 34 years at Alfa have gone by fast, a fact he attributes to the nature of his job.

"Right now, we're working on meetings that are just a few weeks away, but we started on them a year or several years ago," he said. "We're also booking events for 2012, 2013 and beyond. When you think that far ahead, time flies by."


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