A First-Timers Guide to CAST (from a soon to be second-timer)

Today @bennet_nj asked if I had any advice for a first time CAST attendee. After trying to condense this all down into Tweetable size pieces, I decided it better covered here. Please feel free to add your own items, or question mine, in the comments.

Here’s what I came up with based on my attendance of CAST, for the first time, last year.

  • Review the schedule information for sessions ahead of time (that means before you get there).
    • This will give you an idea of what topics are covered and which speakers are attending.
    • Come up with a rough list of what session you want to attend.
    • BUT, be prepared to switch at the last-minute. You are bound to bump into someone you know, or end up in a conversation that sways you towards a talk you originally weren’t interested in.
    • If possible, bring friends (I am) so you can cover more sessions that one human could.
  • There is a lot going on; if you don’t like a session early on, move to another one, or to a lightning talk, or to a side conversation, or to a game, or … It happens, and the speakers are OK with it.
  • Try to get to, or better yet present at, the lightning talks.
  • Go to the keynotes.
    • The topics are good, but the facilitated discussion at the end is awesome.
  • “Big name” testers are people too. They will likely talk to you, play tester games with you, share their scotch or get frustrated that you are not drinking their beer. (all true for me last year)
  • Go to all of the events you can.
  • Sign up for a tutorial.
  • Attend sessions/lightning talks all day.
  • Eat with the attendees, conversations are bound to flourish. This includes dinners off site. Find some testers, introduce yourself, and go out with them.
  • All of the “networking” events are good places to meet people you only know online. They also let you spend time with people whose names you see on books.
  • Find out where informal things are going on and go to them.
  • There are pre and post CAST events, look into them and go if they sound interesting.
  • Despite what the schedule says, there will always be games at night. Somewhere. Find them.
    • You can get Set yourself and start now, this is the go to game for many.
    • Zendo also pops up, but requires some investment. Better to wait and try it out at CAST with those who already have it.
    • Don’t try and prep for anything else, that ruins the experience.
  • Confer between sessions!
    • There’s a reason the breaks are so big.
  • If the ongoing discussion in an already ended session interests you, follow it to it’s offline location and continue.
  • You will get cards (K-Cards) to allow for facilitated participation at the end of each talk and keynote, USE THEM.
  • If something bothers you, bring it up to the AST people running the show.
    • They too are just people and will talk to you, and rectify things that are wrong.

What else can you think of? What did I miss? I look forward to your additions below.


3 thoughts on “A First-Timers Guide to CAST (from a soon to be second-timer)”

  1. Lovely post Erik! As a first timer I appreciate it very much!

    One question:
    “Find out where the informal things are going on and go there”… Any tips on how to find them?

    Take care and see you in Madison!

  2. Erik, the best way I know if is to watch Twitter for things like “where’s dinner? #CAST2013”. I would imagine there will be more of these sorts of things this year since people are split among several hotels. Checking the hotel bar is another good way to find people, or looking for big huddles milling about.

    I ended up going to dinner with around 15 other testers last year because I happened to see them hanging around talking about food (I didn’t use Twitter really at all then).

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