Association services company SmithBucklin acquired 360 Live Media in a move that will significantly augment both companies’ meetings offerings in an environment that increasingly demands a high level of experiential elements, immersive attendee experiences and other format disruptions.

The acquisition of a live-event experience agency such as 360 Live Media also opens the door for Chicago-based SmithBucklin to expand its traditional client base beyond the association segment while bringing more-contemporary meetings design elements to its association offering.

“Expectations are high for all types of meetings, including association meetings, and this is certainly a step to make sure we’re in a position to meet current and future needs and bring talent to the table,” said SmithBucklin CEO Matt Sanderson.

360 Live Media, an association-focused agency with full-service marketing capabilities, is noted for redesigning dozens of association meetings, according to the company, including ASAE’s XDP (Xperience Design Project), which is heading into its third year in 2019 (pictured below).

ASAE XDP 2018 Event Setup

ASAE XDP 2018, an event designed with input from 360 Live Media

The acquisition will bring a fresh perspective to SmithBucklin, a 70-year-old company, and facilitate innovation in the association meetings segment that is similar to that in major corporate events held by cutting-edge companies such as Salesforce and Google.

According to the companies, 360 Live Media will retain its brand and continue to operate out of its Washington, D.C., office as a wholly owned subsidiary of SmithBucklin.

Don Neal, CEO, 360 Live Media

Don Neal, Founder & CEO of 360 Live Media, will continue as its leader.

“’If the rate of change on the outside approaches the rate of change on the inside, the end is near,’” Neal said, quoting noted business executive speaker Jack Welch. “These events are changing events for consumers across the landscape. It’s raising their game and their expertise.

"We see a lot of [association] meeting planners that face the challenge of creating an experience to stand side-by-side with any commercial event," he added. "We want meeting planners to not be threatened by that challenge, but challenged by that.”

Neal said the move reflects the changing nature of meetings and events.

“We’re at the beginning of a convergence where all the small, mid and large meetings are all trying to do the same thing, via technology [and other elements], with costs coming down,” Neal said.

“Meetings are now more strategic and driven by vision," he added. "I think both organizations are operating in the vanguard of change, ensuring best practices and having to future-proof our clients for success.

"It’s more about trying to approach this from the audience of the meetings, and I think that’s where meeting planners will benefit," Neal concluded.

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