Email design isn't really going anywhere without vendor support.
This is quite pricey...
It is. They even include a "Convince your boss"to pay for your ticket PDF form to download and fill out which may mean that they themselves know that the price of these tickets are a bit on the expensive side.
Honestly so are most design conferences. It seems like just one big industry for people to earn money hiring other people to give mildly entertaining presentations.
The smaller confs are really great for networking. But it seems like the "big name" confs are now just for-profit enterprises.