This is my first time going to a national conference. Being as a students, and I only went to Midwest conference once, I dont have too much experience to compare. However, I think besides John Hoke and Michael Cyszs (really amazing), there was one smaller presentation from Ann-marie Conrado talking about HOPE initiative, she focused on "design for developing country". which is very inspiring. I do think it is really hard to talk to people there and to find other students, like the merit award winners, even the closing night party, everything seems pretty....separate i think.
but yeah, overall, it is a very good experience. If the registration fee could be a little less, I'll definitely go next year. ha.