It is a good question. I was asked that by a manager I had several years ago and it is still relevant.
For the last 13 months, I have been working on the preparations for CAST 2015. The last 2 months have been amazingly busy (which explains the lack of blogging from me – not an excuse, something simply had to give.) I’ve organized two day music events for 800 of our closest friends. I’ve been part of the organization effort for  various events, festivals, contests and the like. Being the Conference Chair for CAST has been more demanding than any of these and, by far, more rewarding.
The morning of August 3, 2015, I’ll know if the work done in advance was done well – as will some 120 other people participating in the Tutorials that are such an integral part of CAST. The 200 people participating in all of CAST are also integral parts – Each are part of what makes CAST, well, CAST.
My first CAST experience was in 2010, when CAST was in Grand Rapids the first time. It was held at Calvin College on the outskirts of the city.
There were 90 to 100 people at CAST that year (it was a troubled year in many respects). Still, the conversations were good. I met many people in person whose writing’s I had learned much from.  It was the people present, the attendees, who stick out in my mind. The conversations were free flowing and constant. It did not matter a whit if the participants were famous writers or testers or presenters or what.
All were discussing and debating as equals.
That made an impression on me.
Since then, every CAST I have attended and participated in it still makes an impression. It matters little if the person espousing a view is a famous author, pundit, speaker or personage in testing – someone will question them on something. The discussion will flow greatly and freely.
The idea that a successful conference is dependent on “Famous People” speaking or on the location as a “Tourist Destination” is to me, a sad comment on the quality of the content for conferences that rely on that as the “major reason” people go to them.
Conferences that rely on telling people what to do or what they should do or, more chilling to me, why not doing what the conference speakers are telling them to do may cost them their jobs if there are bugs found hold little appeal to me – and seem a sad reflection of the politics of fear found in many countries.
At one time, an informal expression in various militaries was something like “jackets off” – meaning indications of rank and position had been removed and everyone was speaking as equals. At CAST, the jackets are always off. 
At this year’s CAST, you may notice something different from many of the conferences available:  The speakers are practitioners.
They are people who do what they are talking about for a living. They are not globe-trotting frequent conference speakers who will flog whatever theory or buzzword is in vogue at the time. They are not advocating for a set of letters to add after your name which they, by sheer coincidence, can administer the training and then the exam to get them.
The speakers have deadlines and projects that are troublesome and have unexpected problems. Some have managers who don’t understand some of the things they are being told and want a simple explanation.
They are talking from their own working lives. They are not talking theory, or “studies have shown” or “best practices.” They are people talking about what they have first-hand experience with.  They are people talking about what worked, and importantly, what did not. They are talking about dealing with doubts and problems and what they learned and took away that may be applicable elsewhere.
If you have not signed up for CAST, check out the schedule here, then compare what is being discussed with what the large “major name” conferences are discussing. Look at who is presenting at CAST versus who presents year after year at the “major name” conferences. Sure, there is likely to be some overlap in speakers – look at the content. Look at what they are talking about.
Look at what they have to say.
If you are want to learn more, by all means, I invite you to register for CAST. We have some seats left, not many, but some. Most of the tutorials are at capacity and one has 6 spots left.
Join us. Come with an open mind and you might just leave a better thinker which will make you a better tester.
Even if you can’t join us in person, by all means join us via the webCAST. We have worked very hard to carry all plenary sessions and one full track for two days, live online – for free! This is followed by an evening discussion called “CAST Live.” Check it out here.
I’ll see you in Grand Rapids in a couple of weeks.