The Scoop: With more than 20,000 gay men on its mailing list, The Men Event fosters countless genuine connections in New York City. Along with networking events, Host and Founder Hugh Hysell organizes a variety of other themed parties, including murder mystery dinners and speed dating events. With a constant stream of new ideas and an ever-changing list of venues, the events are unique but often end in the same way — with plenty of romance.
Hugh Hysell, Creator and President of The Men Event, has fond memories of one particular speed dating event he organized in New York City years ago. It was a themed event called Millionaire Matchmaker, and it was meant to connect mature, successful gay men with younger men looking for love. While the ratios at Hugh’s events were never an issue, this one turned out to be a little uneven.
“I had cancellations from members of the older group at the last minute, so I called one of my friends,” he said. “He was already in his sweats, making dinner, and I said, ‘OK, get your suit back on. You’re 10 minutes away; get down here. You have to do me a favor.'”
As it turns out, the friend Hugh enlisted to help at the last minute met a man from the younger group. They went out to dinner, started dating, and got serious. They met each other’s families and continued to date even when the young man had to return to his native Singapore. The couple still connected on video chat daily.
“It began with him agreeing to attend an event and ended with him finding one of the biggest loves of his life,” Hugh said.
Hugh’s friend is one of 20,000 men who receive invitations to his gay dating and networking events held throughout New York City every month. The Men Event is one of the largest services of its kind in the city, and its functions can be ideal places to start searching for a new friend or Mr. Right.
While the events are meant to connect men, they can also aid in personal growth by helping attendees become more confident in themselves.
“Confidence is sexy. If you see someone you want to talk with, then get in there and talk with them. That confidence will get you noticed, but in a very nice way,” Hugh said. “People leave our speed dating events in a great mood because there’s no rejection in the room, and no one knows who their matches are.”
Hugh sends out the matches the next day, so everyone leaves the events with a sense of hope and fulfillment.
“During the matching process, we find out if people picked each other for mutual reasons,” he said, “But singles always have a whole night knowing they did a great job.”
Founder Hugh Hysell Went From Marketing Broadway Shows to Creating Speed Dating Events
In the early 2000s, Hugh was working as a marketing professional for Broadway and off-Broadway shows. He’d make sure to visit all the gay bars, gay clubs, and gay organizations to get the word out about the newest theatrical performances.
“Gays love the theater, and they’re one of the first audiences to buy tickets,” he said.
Over the years, he built a vast network of connections in New York City’s gay community. In 2004, he had lunch with the president of the Times Square Alliance — the group responsible for coordinating the New Year’s Eve ball drop. The two men were reminiscing about all the clubs they used to go to in the city that had closed down, and how the gay scene was such an essential part of the history of Times Square.
“He said that the gay culture has always been part of what made Times Square unique. At that time, the last gay establishment in Times Square was about to be torn down to make way for a new American Eagle store,” Hugh said. “So, he challenged me. He said, ‘You do all this marketing in the gay community; create something gay for Times Square, and we’ll support it.’”
So Hugh created The Men Event, which was initially a monthly networking event that still takes place today. For the first few years, events were held in Times Square, but as demand grew, they began popping up at some of the hottest venues in the city.
“Because of those events, I grew one of the largest gay email lists in the city,” Hugh said. “The second year, we launched a singles networking party, which was a huge success. Then we got into events just for singles because we saw a real need for it. A lot of men were searching for a way to connect with other singles outside of the usual bar or club atmosphere.”
Themed Activities Mean Extra Fun for Attendees
As Hugh was trying out different event themes and styles, he met a man who ran speed dating events for heterosexuals in New York City.
“He taught me the basics of what he knew and what he had learned along the way. We have similar companies and hold events where people can come alone or come as friends, but he focuses on the straight world and I focus on the gay world,” Hugh said. “We launched our first speed dating event nine years ago here in the city, and we’ve run them twice a month since then, hitting a variety of topics and themes.”
The Men Event now hosts popular speed dating events for professionals and themed events including “Latino Lovers and Their Admirers,” “Speed Dating for Scruffy Faces and Their Admirers” and, of course, “Millionaire Matchmaker.”
Hugh is excited about introducing a special family-themed event for men who either have children or want to have children.
“I can tell you that we’ve had quite a number of marriages come out of these speed dating events and a lot of long-term relationships,” he said. “It’s a great way for people to connect — and even see if others get their jokes. That’s a big indicator of compatibility, to me. Yeah, there’s an attraction, but it’s about whether we get along and if there’s a spark.”
Matchmaking is Available for Curated Introductions
Much like Hugh’s friend who dropped what he was doing to come to an event and find love, most of The Men Event’s speed dating participants find success. Hugh estimates that more than 90% of men who attend the events come away with at least one match. And plenty of people receive eight or more matches at the events, too.
And for those who want even more personal attention, Hugh is also a matchmaker.
“I’m a very good matchmaker, and I set a lot of people up,” he said. “I’ve officiated several weddings that I’m responsible for.”
He’s currently working with one client who is a legal professional in New York City with a very long list of requirements in a partner. But the man is also open to many different kinds of people as well. They talk frequently so Hugh can provide feedback on his dates and help ensure his client presents himself as well as possible.
Clients make a six-month commitment and pay a one-time fee for a guaranteed number of one-on-one, in-person introductions.
Hugh is also planning to branch out geographically as he’s talking with promoters in Boston and Philadelphia about bringing The Men Event to those cities.
“I’m constantly looking for new ways to provide fun things to do and interesting ways to meet people,” Hugh said. “We just did our first pumpkin-carving class this year, and that was a big hit. There’s a gingerbread painting party coming up, and I also host scavenger hunts. I’m always looking for the new thing that will be a hit with our audience. I’m serving the gay community in a way that it wasn’t being served, and I enjoy that.”