Excluding my regular critique group (except during COVID), I've probably had over 100 professional writing critiques. Some harsh, some dismissive, some encouraging, some insightful, some throwaways. I've made a substantial investment in my writing career and I've learned a solid professional critique can put you on an enlightened path.
There are so many good reasons for writers to attend conferences. But go with a plan, though. The national August SCBWI conference in Los Angeles is amazing. Even with an economy that stumbles along, this conference continues to grow. The speakers, peer camaraderie and critiques of your work all can give you a big kick in the rear. But your investment is only as good as your conference goals and your specific plan on what you need to get out of the conference for your stage of work. Otherwise, you end up with a big fat folder, stacked in a corner of your office.
Be forthright with yourself. This is your investment in your writing career. The same goes for regional conferences as October SCBWI Fall Conference. Be realistic. Be prepared with your elevator pitch and business cards. Here are some great tips from SCBWI blogger Jane Makuch about conference preparation. Most importantly, set goals.