Last week found me braving the Grand Rapids, Michigan summer (heat! humidity! sun! loved it!) to attend my first CAST. While I propped it a couple years ago, I didn't actually make it until now.

The short version: CAST is awesome, conference proceedings will soon be up at http://www.cast2010.org so you can see what you missed, you should go next year!

Longer version: Monday I participated in an all-day tutorial by Fiona Charles on Speaking Truth to Power. Most of this session involved role playing scenarios about telling an unwelcome message to people in power. Some came from our real lives, others were invented; all came scarily close to real situations we had suffered through at some point.

I found this session the most helpful of any I attended. We could halt the role play whenever we desired and discuss what had happened so far, then continue on or replay it from the beginning. This let us experiment with different approaches and see how they affected a scenario's outcome. Highly valuable!

I had three big learnings that day:

  • "Let me get back to you on that" is helpful in a multitude of situations.
  • Our emotions will hijack us when we least expect them to.
  • Changing the physical relationship between the people in a conversation will change the conversation.

Each of the next two days started off with a keynote and then continued with a full day of sessions. While one speaker turned me off when he seemed to make fun of waterfall ("Look at how long it takes!"), it turned out OK; every other session was quite good.

While the talks were interesting, the best part of every session was the facilitated conversations at their end. At least a third of every session was devoted to these discussions, and the CAST staff ensured that even the shyest introvert had a chance to talk without being steamrolled by the decidedly non-shy extroverts who always seem to dominate Q&A periods.

Extrapolating from this you might guess that pretty much everybody talked with pretty much everybody else throughout the conference, and you would pretty much be correct. Before sessions, after sessions, and into the wee hours of the night I had any number of conversations to choose from, and I took full advantage of these opportunities to meet new people, chat in person with people I had only met online, and renew friendships with people I already knew. For a person like me who loves to talk with people about testing, this was nirvana!

So, like I said earlier, CAST was awesome, conference proceedings will soon be up at http://www.cast2010.org, and you should definitely go next year! It'll be in Seattle, and I will definitely be there!