I just got back from an amazing 4 day adventure- The PNWA 2010 Summer Conference. It was the first time I'd ever gone to this particular one and it was well worth it.
The most radical difference from other conferences I've attended was the pitching alternative.
Usually I end up paying $75 and I get a 10 min or so manuscript consultation. Don't get me wrong, those are cool, but at the PNWA conference they actually have you sign up for one on one pitch sessions with editors and agents. There is also a speed pitching option where you pitch to 4 agents, rotating every 2 minutes, like speed dating. I signed up for everything!
My favorite was the one on one. I noticed that when I just had time to give my pitch and nothing more, the editors/agents were hesitant to request more material. But, during the one on one they were able to ask questions and almost always the more in depth they got, the more they liked my manuscript! I am so excited. Oh, and yes, I'm changing my pitch to be more specific. It was a great experience and all the agents and editors were nice.
Another difference, they used the entire day. We started at 8 am and went to about 9 pm. It really felt worth the money. We got great breaks to help us last the day and we were served dinner on two nights.
I can't wait to tell you about it more in depth, check back later for information on individual workshops, editors and agents.