Firstly, all the participants for the meeting could fit into one conference room for presentation. This is very different from the larger society meetings with dozens of concurrent sessions happening in multiple conference rooms (for example, the American Geophysical Union meetings which have had over 22,000 attendees in a given year). I really enjoyed the contrast, with all meeting participants in the same room watching the one presentation at a time. As an attendee I really appreciated knowing that over coffee I could walk up to any other person and discuss the previous presentations, because we all were there together. We all just saw not only the keynote address, but the sessions that followed it. In some ways I felt this meant I was more likely to interact with fellow meeting participants, regardless of whether we had any direct research interest overlap. More practically speaking, I talked with almost everyone at the meeting. I cannot say I have had the pleasure of interacting with so many new faces in any meeting I have ever attended before.
Secondly, as a speaker, I felt the meeting arrangement ensured I would have the attention of the whole group, while giving my presentation. This was rather empowering. Sometimes at larger meetings you can be assigned a time-slot concurrent with competing talks (e.g. similar topics but as a younger scientist your name may not have the recognition to draw in a crowd, compared with a very established scientist). Or worse, you may be assigned to a room at the opposite end of the conference venu and end up running to a series of talks that look really interesting, but are all assigned to take place at the same time as your presentation! This isn't always the case of course, but it has happened.
Lastly, every talk is relevant or connected to your research topics. Perhaps some are methodologically not up your research alley, but you have the background to understand all of the research that is presented. This makes it easier as both an attendee and as a speaker to understand and present material since you can spend more time on the details, and less time introducing to topic for a broad audience. We were able to cover the intricacies of specific enzymes involved with photosynthesis, without having to spend precious presentation time going over what photosynthesis is. So this meeting allows participants more time to digest the details, as well as the take-home messages. As a presenter I got a lot of great questions both immediately after my talk, and during the coffee breaks, dinner, and following day of the meeting. This is the most feedback on any presentation I have ever given, save my thesis defense.
This is not to say that I don't love larger society meetings. I love the larger meetings for their breadth of topics covered, and the fact that most people in your field will all be in the same city for a few days each year (so you can meet with everyone without the use of Skype). But, the more intimate setting of the smaller, special interest group style meetings is a distinct advantage for me. After two days I was able to meet almost everyone in this group and discuss new potential collaborations, as well as introduce myself to the PSE-PEPG research world. I am grateful for the opportunity to present at the meeting, and I look forward to hearing more about PSE-PEPG research at future events.
p.s. If you were not able to attend the meeting, you can follow the twitter conversation here: http://www.hashtagr.co/psepepg and the oral presentations were recorded and will be posted on the PSE website in a few days time.