This year’s model

Stephanie Selesnick discusses the hosted buyer model in Covid-19 times with Phil McKay, nGage Events, Inc.


Phil McKay, CEO of New Hampshire-based (USA) nGage Events, Inc. may not have invented the business-to-business events hosted buyer model, but he perfected it.

The nGage Events hosted buyer model brings together executives to exclusive locations where top-notch education and business development activities take place. It includes matchmaking in the form of pre-scheduled 1:1 meetings and boardroom-style case study presentations. Buyers are targeted, invited, and hosted for the event at no cost to them, including travel in return for attending a specific number of sessions and meetings. This model assures sponsor ROI.

Before founding nGage Events LLC, and PPM Media, McKay served as executive VP for Questex Media and was responsible for their hosted model events and technology group. He also served as senior vice-president of the World Market Center in Las Vegas, in charge of growing their event portfolio in the furniture, gift and home accessories industries, and was group vice-president and general manager at Gartner’s Vision Events, where he managed teams in 10 verticals holding hosted events.

When March 2020 hit and everything closed down, like many other organisers McKay knew the company’s June in-person events would be cancelled, but had high hopes for reopening in Q3 or Q4. “In the meanwhile, we had two tasks: keep our community together and stay in front of them,” he says. “Holding digital events that stayed as close to our DNA as possible was the solution.”

The trick, McKay believes, with being successful in a digital world is making it impactful for the community – short and sweet. No filler. “Ninety-minute sessions held every other month. Make them interactive and bring in the quality people from both the buyer and sponsor sides,” he advises. His team also performs matchmaking, asking sponsors who they most want to meet. Of course, the attendees have to agree. Last, they bring in a professional moderator.

With 15 digital events held since last March, McKay and his team plan on producing another 12-15 more in 2021. This doesn’t include live events. “The digital events are driving our live, in-person events, which are slated to begin this fall. We’ve been using ‘save the date’ announcements and conversing all along with sponsors and attendees to see what they want when we return to face-to-face. We’re still looking month-to-month in making decisions. While it’s great that more and more people are receiving vaccines, it’s not the time to be complacent.”

One reason that nGage Events has been able to keep its communities together has been the team ethos. “I’m so proud of everyone one of them,” McKay says. “They’ve adapted so well - going way out of their comfort zones, learning new systems, all the while taking care of all of our clients in crazy Covid-19 times.”

Presently, nGage Events produces hosted buyer events in the US and Canada. I ask if there are there any future plans for global expansion. “Our goal has always been to expand to other markets with brand extensions. nGage has a long and successful history of partnering with other companies. This is how we would envision extending these brands in foreign markets.”

While McKay, his partners and team make the hosted buyer model look easy, it’s not. He offers a piece of advice on replicating the model: “If you are looking to dip your toes into the hosted buyer space, my advice would be to embrace the communities you are working in. By this I mean you must either hire an expert or become as immersed in the content as you can. Your audience will drive the sponsors! Content will drive the audience.” Great advice.