I first attended StarEast in 1999. I remember the day-long tutorial I attended (by Rick Craig), and two track sessions - one by Cem Kaner on hiring testers, and one by James Whittaker on "Exploiting a Broken Design Process." I know I attended other sessions but I don't have active memories of them any more. I do remember the experience of attending the conference - one of surprise and excitement. Surprise at seeing so many other people in the testing community with similar questions and problems as myself, and excitement at the speakers with lots of great information and advice to give.
Fast forward to 2011 - I returned to StarEast, this time as a speaker. I suppose I didn't need to wait 12 years to return as a speaker. I didn't intentionally ignore the conference. I think I've been busy with other things and it just didn't come up - until last Fall when I received an invitation in my inbox to submit a proposal. I'm really glad I went.
Some things were familiar - the beautiful hotel, the Florida sunshine, the amazingly fresh orange juice, and the basic conference format. One thing that was different for me this time around was the number of people/speakers that I new who were also speaking at the conference. After having attended and spoken at several other conferences over the years, I guess I have gotten to know many of the popular speakers.
I was happy to see many more people speaking that I have never heard about before. That tells me that the community is still growing after all this time and that there are still many more people sharing their knowledge to help enlighten future generations of testing leaders. That's awesome!