Going to conferences plays a big role in keeping up-to-date with technology. The talks give a glimpse into the current trends, and what others are working on. Their expensive nature only adds to this. People here are dedicated and prepared.
Meetups are like conferences, but at a smaller scale. They retain a friendlier atmosphere, and the talks are less ground breaking. They are a nice way to get in touch with other craftsman.
But conferences tend to last long. Craft, for example, is 2 days long, packed with talks in four rooms simultaneously. It’s impossible to hear everything, as they are parallel.
The organizers usually upload the recordings to the net somewhere. But if you want to hear everything, you’ll need 8 days; nobody has time for that. It would be nice if speakers would provide excerpts of their talks. This way I could read if that particular talk interests me or not. Then I could decide whether I’d see the recording or not. I’m sure I’d see a lot more talks this way.