1. Look up the speakers on the internet before conference. Using google, it can be very easy to find the agents, editors and authors that will be on panels at the conference. There's a wealth of information out there, blogs and interviews all for free. Most people would point to the most obvious benefit being that you can figure out which agents and editors would be the best fit for your work. While I think this is a good point, I think there's another benefit to looking up the panelists beforehand. You will get much more out of the talks if you know a bit more about the background of the panelists.
2. Never underestimate the author talk. I too have fallen into the dastardly trap of disregarding the author talk. After all, it can't get you a book deal, right? Well... true. But the thing about the author talk is they generally talk about what you're going through right now. Every writer has their path, and sometimes, the path is the most interesting part. In a lot of cases, I've found the author talk to be the most inspiring part of the conference; the part that makes me want to get back to the desk and start writing again.
3. Have business cards handy. Again, you may think this is for the plethora of agents and editors you're going to encounter at the conference. Okay, sure. But after you're done handing out your card indiscriminately to them, you might use it to stay in touch with fellow writers. If you don't have business cards? It's pretty easy to make them with word templates and printer. When all else fails, stash a pen and pad in your purse or pocket.
4. Lunch is an opportunity. No, before you even think it, I'm not talking about following the agent to the bathroom and shoving your manuscript into their hands. Lunch is a great place to meet other writers or bloggers with similar interests. Perhaps even future critique partners. Writing is a lonely business sometimes, and I think that the sense of community at a conference is one of the best parts. Don't miss the opportunity to connect with other writers. Sit down with someone new and introduce yourself.
5. Bring paper and pen, and take notes. Okay, if you're like me and consider a couple of hundred dollars to be large amount of money.... then perhaps you want to get your money's worth when it comes to the conference fee. How can you do this? Take notes during the talks. And I'm not just talking about the agent's email address. I've gotten a lot of great tips to use later during my writing sessions from the talks.
Alright, that's all I've got. Can anyone think of anything else?