The joint statistical meetings is an annual gathering of several large professional organizations of statisticians, and annually we descend on some city to share ideas. I'm a perennial attendee, and always find the conference valuable in several ways. I have a few thoughts about the conference in retrospect:
* For me, networking is much more important than talks. Of course, attending talks in your area of interest is a great way of finding people with whom to network.
* I'm very happy I volunteered with the biopharmaceutical section a couple of years ago. It's a lot of work, but rewarding.
* This year, I specifically went to a few sections out of my area, and found the experience valuable.
* I definitely recommend chairing a session or speaking.
* I also recommend roundtable lunches. I did one for the first time this year, and found the back and forth discussion valuable.
In short, I find that connecting with like-minded professionals to be an important part of my career and development as a person.