I love professional conferences. They are a great chance to learn what's happening in my overall industry plus I get to make some connections with people. As long as there is funding available (either mine or from my institution), I will try to make it to as many conferences as I can. It's one reason I'm always putting in speaking proposals.
As much as I love conferences, I have one major gripe. Now, I want to be clear that I understand that organizers have a tough job. They need to select material and fill a day in a way that satisfies their professional development goals and makes the conference seem like a good deal. But, that usually ends up with a conference day that starts before 9AM.
Can we please stop starting conferences before 9AM? The conference I attended this week, technically, started the day at 7:45AM. Yikes! Most conferences start at 8AM or 8:30AM.
These early start times are problematic on so many levels. First, it excludes locals who likely still need to do daycare/school drop-offs, commute, or take care of work responsibilities. Plus, not everyone can stay at the conference hotel. Some out-of-towners may need to find transportation to the conference location. Next, the time zone change is rough for people travelling between coasts. Sure, an east coaster going west will gain some sleep, but west coasters coming east are going to be running on fumes (if they slept at all). Also, it makes it nearly impossible to fly in the day of the conference. Most folks are going to be forced to come in the day before and pay for a hotel. This is not always easy for those from organizations with limited means.
Finally, if there easiest an opening keynote, those early sessions tend to be sparsely attended. I always make an effort to engage and pay attention to the presenter because they worked just as hard on their material as everyone else. Plus, as someone who has presented in an early morning session, it's hard to talk to a room of people who are still yawning or trying to sneak in breakfast. Plus, the doors make a lot of noise when latecomers open them to sneak in.
So, let's all make a pact to start our conferences no earlier than 9AM.