Moving to Austin was a smart move, and next year could be even better.
NamesCon Global 2020 is in the books. The conference took place last Wednesday through Saturday in Austin, Texas.
The move to Austin after many years in Las Vegas was a significant risk for NamesCon, but I believe it paid off. Overall, registrations were down about 75 compared to the year before, but that follows a trend in previous years, so the same attendance might have shown up had the event returned to Las Vegas.
I talked to a lot of people to get their opinions on the show. Here are some of their thoughts as well as mine.
Location: many were happy to have the event in Austin rather than Las Vegas. Not only is it a fun city, but the central U.S. location makes it just a few hour flight from most North American cities. Austin flies direct to 68 airports, but it certainly doesn’t have the international reach that Las Vegas has, so it was probably a bit more difficult for some people.
Hotel rooms: The Tropicana set a very low bar that the Omni easily topped. That said, the rooms were a bit dated. The good thing is that it’s centrally located, so people who want to upgrade have many options to choose from.
Conference venue: There were some good things and some things lacking in the Omni. The bar, expo ‘hall’ (if you can call it that) and Afilias lounge were downstairs. You took stairs up a flight to the session rooms.
- The sessions being on a different level than the exhibits wasn’t a big deal. It all flowed together nicely.
- It was nice having the bar as a central gathering point.
- The session rooms were much smaller than at the Tropicana, but it was is a good thing. There’s nothing worse than a 500-seat hall that’s barely full.
- I wish that the expo hall was more like the one in Las Vegas. It was a great gathering place with games, booths, and lounges; at the Omni, it was just a corridor of the lobby. That said, the Afilias Lounge at the conference was a great, quiet place to meet with people. Also, the exhibits probably should have opened on Wednesday rather than Thursday because the exhibit area was so integrated with the rest of the hotel.
- The way that everything flowed together had the drawback that it was difficult to police for people having badges. The bar/restaurant was a public area.
Sessions: In general, I liked NamesCon’s theme this year. I don’t usually attend many sessions but the ones I went to were good. I think NamesCon could have leveraged the Austin tech community more to bring in fresh speakers, though. If NamesCon is at the Omni again next year, I hope that Capital Factory, the incubator in the office side of the hotel, is integrated more. For example, startups could pitch their business and explain why they chose their names. It would also be helpful to get a few of the local VCs and branding firms to explain their thinking on company naming.
Social: There was plenty to do every night, but not much of it was official. This was fine for me but might be disappointing to people who aren’t as plugged into the community and don’t have organized events to attend.
Attendees: There were a lot of familiar faces this year. As with the sessions, I hope the organizers can pull more local tech and advertising businesses into the mix. Maybe get people from ad firms like GSD&M. There needs to be content to draw them in, and it might be wise to give them free event passes.
Fun Day: The Saturday fun day was great, especially because it was sunny and in the 70s. I wonder if it would make more sense to have this on Friday, though.
I’d love to hear more feedback from those who attended or people who attended in previous years and didn’t make the trip in 2020.