Newsmaker Q&A: Lights Out

Hearing of someone who's stayed in a field long-term is becoming an increasingly unusual experience. But after listening to Craig Smith, president of Freeman's AV division, describe his 40-year career, it's no surprise he's stuck around.

MeetingNews caught up with him last month, just before he retired Sept. 30. The joy of his job and his role with industry associations was clear.

Q: What is the biggest change you've seen in the industry?

Technology.We moved from slide projectors to everything you see—lights, sound, the presentations—depending on a computer.

Q: So has the industry benefited from that?

It's broadened our capabilities. Fifteen years ago, a high-end general session involved the cut-out letters of the association's name, and a pin-spot. Now, we have moving lights, morphing logos; general sessions look like rock concerts.

Q: What was your biggest accomplishment?

To serve twice as chairman of the Convention Industry Council; as president of the Exhibitor Services & Contractors Association and on some association boards. It's fun to participate in an organization's evolution because you get tangible evidence of your effort.

Q: Why are you retiring?

In April, when I turned 62, friends started talking about doing it.Mywife and I met with our financial planner and we had what we needed.

Including part-time work during school, I've been doing this for 45 years; I worked full-time for 40 of them, averaging 35 to 50 flights a year for much of that time. It was enough.

Q: What will you do now?

I love NASCAR, so I will spend more time at the track, and see my two grandchildren. I will probably be able to spend more time with them in their formative years than I did with my children.

After going 110 miles a day most days, I'm looking forward to a cool-down lap.

Originally published Oct. 6, 2008