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To misquote Mark Twain, rumours of the 'death of distance' have been greatly exaggerated. Conferences, in their many forms, are as popular in the scientific community as they have always been.

In this special guide to scientific events, we explore some of the common themes at scientific meetings. In a feature, we investigate the future of the conference. Will technology replace face-to-face meetings with something fast, fun and futuristic, or will it simply supplement the existing set-up?

Elsewhere, we examine how budding public speakers might better get their message across, and ask the experts how to banish presentation jitters. Senior scientists tell us how their careers have been moulded by a scientific conference, as a speaker or an attendee.

Finally, we ask how conferences can improve gender diversity in audiences by improving childcare facilities and meet some brave scientists who have brought their family with them to a meeting. Diverse science is better science. Many organizers could consider following the examples set bysome of the scientists we meet on in our feature.

Whether you’re attending a six-person hackathon or navigating your field’s megaconference, we hope you find something entertaining, useful and enlightening within these pages. Happy conferencing.