Unconferences: Useful or a Waste of Time?

“Unconventions” or “unconferences” are the new schmoozefest of choice. From PodCamp to BarCamp, folks step out from behind their computers, gel their hair, and pick out a casual shirt that says, ‘I’m relevant.’

Here’s my question: Can a room full of people, many of whom have the same goals, really help take your Website or blog to the next level?

I understand you can learn stuff and form relationships. But how does this information differ from what we read or do online?

Bloggers might be better served attending an expo – within their niche – that is more than just other bloggers. It seems to me that blogging and podcasting circles have become quite incestuous. A bunch of folks tooting their own horns, collecting swag and exchanging business cards.

I’ve never been a fan of trade shows, expos, unconferences or whatever else you want to call them. Perhaps it’s the anti-sales introvert in me resisting.

Open my eyes.

Do you think these events really help? And can anyone quantify specifically how they’ve helped your blog? (Aside from getting other bloggers to click over and/or link to you – which I understand is a big part of the game).

I’m toying with the idea of attending PodCamp this coming weekend. How can I make the most of the experience?