Getting CAST to My City

How do I get CAST hosted in my city?

Getting CAST to your city is an exciting adventure. The prospects are fantastic – smart, intelligent, thinking testers coming to your home town.  They will learn and share and you can show off your city to all the participants  The idea of developing a program, selecting speakers and creating something memorable is pretty great.

Still, the work it takes to make that happen is challenging and sometimes daunting.  A venue is needed to support the expected number of participants, for conference sessions, lodging, entertainment and other ideas.  With ten years of experience and feedback from participants, we collected some ideas that have worked in the past.  We also have some cautions and restrictions about pitfalls previous organizers of CAST fell into.

Here are some ideas that have proven useful in the past.

Making It Happen

Finding the venue is often the hard part. There may be hotels around potential venues you can work with to get group rates for the conference. Some venues have hotels affiliated with them. This can make discussions a little easier.

Get estimates and/or proposals from venues you think would be good is the first step. Be careful not to make a commitment for the conference until the Board makes its decision and approves you as the host location.

To convince the Board that you have the BEST host city and the BEST venue, these are some of the things you will need to provide.

First, an estimate needs to be worked out on the CAST-Planning worksheet.  If you have more than one venue you think would work, copy the “Venue Expenses” tab for each potential venue. If there are different lodging options for each venue, record that information accordingly.

Second, an explanation of the proposed leadership for the host venue.  If you have a conference chair or committee in mind, indicate that to the Board.  Who will be the Conference Chair?  Who will do the local negotiation and planning? Do you have an idea who you would like as the Program Chair?  (These are complex positions with a lot of work associated with them.  Make sure your candidate for each of the Chair positions is aware of the amount of work!)

Third and last, give the Board an explanation why your city and proposal is the best for hosting CAST.  This can take any form you believe will best suit your city.

Venue

Most attendees prefer to travel by foot and do not rent ground transportation, so the venue must be within walking distance of local restaurants and hotels.

Acceptable venues are hotels with conference facilities or detached conference centers. All meeting rooms should be on the same floor whenever possible and no more than two floors when split.

The venue should be able to accommodate 4 concurrent tracks (capacity ~50-70), one room being large enough for keynotes and plenary sessions (capacity ~170-225/max 250). Meals can be served in keynote/plenary room or in a separate dining area, but a separate dining area is preferred to help limit dining noises intervening with the plenary sessions..

The venue should have adequate space for attendees to linger in the hallways and common areas between and during sessions. Natural light is always preferred.

If the venue has operating hours and closes in the evening please let us know. It’s not unusual for attendees to stay late into the evening or early morning.  If there are potential areas for after-hours meetings or social events, these are good to note as well.

Set-up / Storage / Tear down

Conference staff should have access to the venue prior to the event to prepare for morning registration the Sunday before the conference.

The venue must supply a secure location to lock up supplies and equipment overnight.

The venue should allow direct shipments without penalty.

Time is needed after the last sessions to pack up supplies and equipment (load out).

Food and Beverage

We provide breakfast, lunch, and two breaks each day. Both breakfast and lunch should be buffet style. Afternoon breaks can include snacks if budget allows. Breaks should consist of coffee, tea, and soft drinks at minimum. Ideally coffee is also available throughout the day

Protein is required for breakfast each day, continental breakfast (while typical) isn’t sufficient.

If a hosted reception is part of the evening schedule, it consists of light hors devours and a cash bar. Typically we provide 1-2 free drink coupons if the budget permits.

Some attendees may have special food needs (vegan, gluten free, food allergy, etc). Please work with the venue on how to accommodate these needs. Ideally they would be handled day-of by the conference facility staff.

Schedule

The conference is three days; the first day must be on a Monday. Tutorials occur on Monday (aka Pre-Conference); Tuesday and Wednesday (aka Day 1 and 2) are for the conference itself.

Early start times should be avoided; 9am is the earliest any session(s) should start; later is better if the schedule permits.

Keynotes must be in the morning after a brief welcome and announcements.

Evening activities can be scheduled both Tuesday night and Wednesday night. Typically this includes “testing games” and a testing competition which are the primary evening social activities. Adequate time should be set aside between the end of the conference day and evening activities so attendees can get dinner.

A short closing plenary session can be done on Wednesday to summarize and close the conference, this is optional. If not done then a closing message and thank you should be delivered by the conference chair and/or President.

If budget allows a hosted reception can be scheduled for Tuesday night. The bar should close approximately one hour before the room needs to be vacated, to allow for easy crowd management.

Adequate time should be provided in the schedule for AST business. Examples of AST business include SIG meetings or special sessions. The program committee will have to work with the chairs of the SIGs and committees, as well as the BOD on getting to know preferable times for these.

A typical format is as follows:

  • Tutorials: 4 @ full-day

  • Keynotes: 2 @ 80 mins

  • Track Sessions: 16 (4 tracks, 4/day) @ 75 mins

 

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