It's a little after midnight right now, on Thursday, August 6, 2015. The last talk was given six hours ago. Pizza, soft drinks and candy were brought in to complement the tester games and lightning talks. All during the evening, I shook hands with and got to meet many first timer attendees and thank them for putting their trust in us to put on a memorable conference for them. We look to have succeeded on that front.
I made it a point this time, as President, to sit a different tables and talk with people who were first timers at the conference. I wanted to understand what brought them here. Some came because of the reputation of CAST. Some came because co-workers recommended it. Some came because it was local to Western Michigan. Some came because at the last minute, the person who was supposed to come had to cancel and they were asked to go in their place. It was the last one I had a chance to hear about in the elevator as I headed upstairs after we finished everything. I asked her if she felt it was worth going in blind to an event she knew nothing about. She said "Yes, very much!"
This conference has been in the planning stages since this time last year. The board as a whole came out to Grand Rapids to check out the Amway Grand Plaza and scout out the surrounding neighborhood, and we felt we had a great venue to work with. The responses from the participants seems to confirm that fact. the conference committee handled logistics and contracts in as focused and timely a manner as could be hoped for. The Program committee did a wonderful job delivering a balanced program of excellent speakers, including a whole bunch of brand new speakers. We have been proud to sponsor new voices at CAST over the years, and especially this year, with the help of Speak Easy. Several speakers submitted papers to go with their talks and workshops, and those should be available soon.
I spent much of this conference in the role of a facilitator or facilitator's helper, and it helped keep me focused and alert to the questions and answers. Open Season means something quite different when you are the one managing the crowd and their expectations. Put simply, I would definitely do it again.
Each year the webCAST grows bigger and more people participate. I don't have hard numbers, but if Twitter is anything to go by, a lot of remote people liked what they saw and took to the Twitterverse to confirm it. Ben and Paul Yaroch, an excellent job once again. I can't wait to see the videos uploaded to YouTube.
We elected a new board for 2015-2016, and we released those who have chosen not to continue with the board going forward. as I said in an earlier post, I have bittersweet feelings about resuming my life as a civilian. On one hand, I feel four years is ample time. I think it's important that, for new ideas to take hold, those of us on the board don't run continually. We need to encourage other new voices to get involved and roll up their sleeves. I may be back again to try to run in the future, but I feel it's time to step back and let others have a chance.
Overall, I want to say thank you to each and every one of the participants that carved out time during their week to come spend time with us. The conference is now finished, we have indeed crossed the finish line, and now it's on to the next adventure. That next adventure still has a few things that need to be ironed out before we can say anything, but I have a feeling that the audience and participants will love it ;).
That's it for me, I need sleep. Goodnight, everyone!!!