Choose conferences or events with real techies.
I would recommend being selective - there is nothing worse than going to an event and finding you are going to be slidewared to death by salesgrunts that actually know nothing about the product other than the brochure view. And try and stop senior management going to such events otherwise you will end up having to undo what is often some very good indoctrination pushed by people that know how to press their buttons. Instead, get a list of the presenters and (if possible) booth bunnies and Yahoogle them and/or look them up on LinkedIn - look for the guys that are not presales or tech sales, look for the lab guys and developers. The real techies will tell you how the product ACTUALLY works rather than what the vendor wants you to know, and if you can split them from their minders they often like to talk about their work. Remember, these guys don't get out into the real World often so they love to hear about real implementations and the problems you run into. I once got a fix for an implementation bug from one such techie when our rep was telling me it was not a known problem.