Within the past year I have attended, as a paying student, three knitting conferences; Stitches West®, Vogue Knitting Live® Los Angeles, and Interweave Press' Knitting Lab® (and in the past I have attended the Knitting Guild of America's conferences). They have similarities and differences, and pros and cons.
Generally there are classes, dinners, fashion shows, and markets. The classes are often taught by knitting authors, teachers, designers or well known bloggers. Frequently they showcase techniques that are best learned in person. The classes customarily are limited in size so that you can get the help you need to learn the technique being taught. Catalogs listing the classes suggest a skill level or specific skills needed to get the most out of the class. In addition, there might be some homework so that you can start right in on the subject being taught. In addition, there are dinners where attendees, hosts and the teachers can interact outside the classroom. A feature of the dinner, or separately after the classes are finished for the day, is a fashion show that show cases the teacher's work, or designs. The fashion show may premier new fibers or designs from to-be-released books. Some fashion shows focus on the general attendees work, in a large show and share.
Finally, there is the market, often held in a large area, it contains booths where vendors exhibit their goods. For those without a local yarn shop, it is a great opportunity to buy yarns that can be sampled, touched and are often shown in sample garments or items.
The biggest differences are amount of attendees, which teachers teach where, and the size of the market.
Vogue knitting live L.A.® - Almost 200 class sessions and lectures, 50 teachers and approximately 75 vendors. The organizers hope for more of a boutique instead of a huge knitting market, and they succeed. The vendors offer unique goods, and high quality wares.
Stitches West®- Almost 200 class sessions and lectures, about 50 teachers, but 350 market vendors. By far the largest market, there is something for everyone in every price range. 11,000 people came through the market. It is an explosion of knitting!
Interweave Knitting Lab® - Almost 100 class sessions, about 25 teachers, and 30 market vendors. This was the first year, and it had the smallest turnout and market. That said it was delightful. The scale made it very approachable.
Knit and Crochet Show - Almost 2500 attendees and 50 vendors. What sets this show apart is that it is the only conference to showcase crochet.
Many of the teachers teach at each conference so check the listings for who will be teaching.
The best part of the conference experience is meeting with, "our people", knitters of all different skill levels, interests, and all of them enthusiastic. Getting hands on instruction is wonderful and inspiring.
The teachers are skilled and helpful, often with great stories of their knitting experiences.
This is more a user error than a conference error, when you take too many classes, and then do not use the skills learned, they often fade in your memory. Then when the need arises to use the skill you are at a loss. I try to take classes and then work on a project that uses them immediately. This helps build the muscle memory and reinforces the skills learned.
I wish I could write with authority on conferences in countries other than the United States, but I've not had the pleasure of attending one. If any reader has the name of a conference in their country could you please post it in the forum and share your experiences.