It’s a question that I normally get especially when I travel to destinations that are quite far from UK for conference/meetings. One main thing that I tell everyone is that, how much ever technological advances we make, like Skype, teleconference etc., meeting someone and discussing science by far is the best way to communicate. In addition, we normally collaborate with groups across the globe and even after few publication, we don’t normally see them. So these conferences are great venues to meet these collaborators and from my experience this has nurtured future collaborations and thereby progress my research.
These are the secondary benefits. The primary benefit is of course the platform that we get to present our research to the world. It’s possible that a handful of people might read our research through journals, but you will never get an audience like the one that you get at a conference to present your research. You will also receive interesting questions that will help you understand the results more and do further experiments to validate the findings.
Sorry about the typos and grammar. Quite a few questions to answer and I haven’t reviewed what I wrote.