SCBWI conferences both national and local. I can't even tell you how many wonderful people I've had the chance to meet and learn from.
Being a Regional Advisor for the Southwest Texas chapter of the SCBWI, I know I may be a little bias. But what you may not know is that your local or state SCBWI conference is a gold-mine of exposure for illustrators.
At local conferences illustrators make up 10-20% of the attendees. Almost every conference I have been to has a portfolio display and contest. Okay, let's do the math, if your local conference has 100 participants, 20 will have portfolios in the display. Who judges said contest? The speakers, i.e. art directors, editors and agents. And then there are the "get-of-the-slush-pile" passes that you get for attending conferences. For a limited time you can submit to attending speakers, even if they are at a closed house.
Want to get even more out of your local conference? Volunteer!
I'm looking forward to a round of conferences here in Texas in January (Austin) and February (Houston). I'm planning on attending the International Summer Conference in LA in August and in September we are hosting an Editor's Day here in San Antonio. Opportunities abound in 2010!
Find an SCBWI chapter near you: http://www.scbwi.org/Pages.aspx/Regional-Chapters
Okay, so this information isn't secret, but if you aren't part of your local chapter you are missing out on a great resource!