Attending conferences is one of the things that I wish I could do more of on a regular basis. Travelling from Hawaii to California or even from the Big Island to Oahu is quite an expense. But I do make it part of my budget planning so that I can do so at least once every couple years. If I lived in a large metropolitan city, I would attend conferences two to three times a year.
But attending isn’t a guarrantee of getting anything out of it. You need to be very social and really reach out to the others attending and presenting. Don’t go just to look around. Go to be totally immersed in the experience. Get as many business cards/contact info as you can. Just like exercise, you get out of these events what you put into them. And participate in as many presentations as you can. I usually sign up for two or three events that I have to pay for and fill the rest of the time with the freebies. Or going to meet and greet events to network.