GECCO 2013? Of course, my answer is yes (if you have a paper and the budget). But, it is an opportunity to explain what makes for me a good conference, from a participant point of view. I identified different reasons or criteria to participate to a conference.
Meeting the community: It is one of the main reasons to attend a conference. Listening to presentations and conversing with other researchers is part of a researcher’s work. In addition to learn on your research topic you can also learn about research practices, establish contacts for collaborations, and exchange views on research policies. The fact that some sessions and organizers/session chairs/keynote speakers are focused on your research topic is an important criterion.
Publishing an article: Of course, having an accepted paper to a conference is a way to disseminate your research. Publication and referencing of the proceedings, as well as the opportunity to extend the paper for journals’ special issues, are important aspects. For instance, GECCO will include the proceedings in the ACM Digital Library. Checking the referencing of previous conference editions is a good indicator.
Obtaining feedback on research: This is not as easy as it seems, however the reviews of your paper, the questions and the possible discussions about your presentation are generally valuable. A good review process, an adequate time for the presentation and good conditions for meeting and discussing with other researchers are essential.
Taking one’s mind off things: Yes! And personally I am more productive after this kind of event.
On this topic I found some interesting tips (more particularly for PhD students) by Michael Ernst, "Attending an academic conference". He compiled a list of interesting advice "Advice for researchers and students".