Personal opinion follows:
Dick Eastman's recent blog about expensive genealogy conferences are exactly why Coffey Cousins' do not hold their annual reunions at convention centers, or hotels that charge outrageous fees for parking, a bottle of water or a cold muffin.
A couple of years ago one of our Coffey Cousins attempted to lure us into a large convention center in Virginia for the 2008 reunion. When cost per individual was determined, the proposal was rejected out of hand.
With the welcome assistance of a couple of ladies in the area of Virginia where we wanted to convene, and with the help of some very nice management folks at the Days Inn, we pulled off a successful reunion. Hopefully, none of our cousins went home believing they had been overcharged for their rooms. The free continental breakfast every morning was filling, and there was no charge for parking. The conference room and dining room provided by Days Inn was also free for our use.
Something that Dick didn't mention - or I overlooked it if he did - that adds to the expense of attending one of the national conferences, are the huge fees charged by speakers. I'm fairly certain that some of those speakers make it a business traveling from one conference to another, and charging most of their expenses back to the taxpayer each April 15. Nothing wrong with that of course; I very much favor small business. But I can find a better use for my research money.
I'm not really sure who attends the national conventions. There seems to be maybe a half dozen or so a year, maybe more. I have never been to one. Perhaps one of these days I will, if for no other reason than to visit the vendor displays.
My belief is that most genealogists in the US are family historians who can figure out how to use library resources. We probably already know what records are available on our ancestors. I have seen some very nice published research by what the professionals might call "non certified" researchers.
Call me cynical, but what I can't learn on my own, is stuff that I'm not willing to shell out hundreds of dollars for someone to tell me about.