Eastern Economics Association annual conference, Philadelphia, a month ago.
1) Going to conferences is a great idea. The value of the free/cheap things easily exceeded the conference fee for students (which my university paid anyway). The biggest highlight on this front was getting the $120 Palgrave Handbook of Econometrics: Volume 2: Applied Econometrics for $20.
2) People at conferences are very friendly. They are largely there to meet people and make a good impression plus they are mostly in a new environment and have nothing important to do besides talk to people (unless it is AEA’s and everyone is trying to hire or be hired).
3) It is really easy to get a paper accepted. It is good to keep this in mind when reading about how long and arduous is the process of getting a paper published in a journal. No need to wait a year for referees’ criticisms; you can here the same complaints at the first relevant conference and address them before trying to publish. Seeing this intermediate step made it seem realistic to do non-dissertation research before graduation.
Coming up next- comments on the actual papers.