Attending CAST is a memorable experience. In addition to the usual excitement of keynotes, session talks, and conference events, I look forward to the structured conferring of Open Season. This tongue-in-cheek name indicates the often intense examination of presented ideas that sets CAST apart from other testing events.

While session attendees do ask clarifying questions during presentations, Open Season is a series of discussion threads skillfully managed by trained facilitators. This moderation avoids the tangling of threads that occurs when participants interrupt one another or try to prioritize their own message or perspective over that of others. K-Cards are a tool used to manage the question and answer portion of a session. These color-coded cards send non-verbal signals that represent the depth and breadth of the audience’s interests.

Facilitators promote a balanced and respectful conversation. They allow space for everyone to participate by calling on less vocal contributors. They decide when to move on from a topic to broaden the conversation to include other aspects of the matter at hand. They may even collect a participant’s red “burning question” card if it is over-used.

Every CAST session, from keynote to lightning talk, includes this Q&A. While this sounds like a small change, it sets a distinct tone for conference interactions. Often, Open Season is not long enough to explore the proposed comments and concerns. Outside of the lecture and workshop spaces, attendees gather in hallways, at tables, and in corners of rooms to continue the conversations with energy and tenacity.

Some attendees prefer to listen to these discussions, which often include scholars, researchers, industry leaders, and strong personalities. However, I often see otherwise shy or tentative testers find their voice in these smaller gatherings. This focus on ideas levels the playing field, making it possible for anyone to contribute great insights or to ask discerning questions.

Open Season opens up many opportunities for ongoing discussion and engagement with the testing community represented at CAST. Join the conversation!
Note: K-Cards and Open Season are not part of the peer conference format used for TestRetreat.