Events with atheist and secular thought leaders and scientists - should I go?
I guess everyone should go once to these events. As for me, I would say save your money. November 2, 2017 I went to a Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris discussion hosted by Matt Dillahunty. I thought it would be good to go, and it was. However, I felt that for my money, no new ground or new discussion took place that I could not easily access on YouTube. It was dry, and unfortunately Richard Dawkins was not in top form. He has been sick, and he is, as we all are, aging. Sam Harris had to carry the show. Matt Dillahunty was obviously uncomfortable from a combination of being star-struck and hosting before such a large crowd. I left thinking "I spent $160 on that?" When I was a Christian I got more out of listening to theologians giving lectures for free.
My experience is that the big names will pitch to the lowest common denominator. If you are very familiar with a speakers work you are not likely to learn anything new. For new material or concepts look for university lecturers who usually have a passion for their work. They want to share their love and knowledge of their subject and not rake in a few bucks.
I haven't been to one in a couple of years, but I used to attend American Atheist and Texas Freethought get-togethers regularly. I have had lunch with Richard Carrier, chit-chatted with Anthony Grayling , and met Ayaan Hersi Ali, as well as Dawkins, Hitchens, Penn Gilllette, and others. I do not regret taking advantage of those opportunities.
I attended one - drove (car pool) several hundred miles - two day event: Matt, Aron Ra, and a few others key speakers. Yes, I've seen all the arguments on Youtube but I found the experience worth the time and money as I got to meet the speakers and a few other rational thinkers. On day one there was a not happy person in the audience. At noon in the hotel cafeteria, he sat across from my table, kitty corner from Mat and Aron's table - - - He ate alone and slunk under his table and pulled out a large pocket blade knife that played with for a long time. . . He did not come to the second day's event.