Future thought types have aired their viewpoints via Robin Good, one of the sharper experts on collaboration.
My view is that conference have to go well beyond the "presenter" and "audience" model. For years there have been back channel discussion via IRC and more recently using Skype chat for people both in the physical and virtual audiences. Now services like client Livestream-which just combined Twitter via Twitcam- and others like uStream and Justin.tv are streaming conference events to those not physically there. The interaction though between those up on stage and those virtually there though is lacking for the most part today. But so are many of the key elements that are needed to make the interaction look and sound great over the net, which is where I see Cisco heading.
I recall at two different VON events I used SightSpeed to bring Om Malik to one conference as a virtual panel participant, and another to have an expert on the panel from Los Angeles while we were all in Boston. Both sorta worked, but the conference technology was not configured well to do it (i.e no one gave me a video and audio out, there wasn't a production mixing board input to use, etc.) that would have made it kickin. But hey, that was two years or more ago, so Jeff Pulver and I were just slightly ahead of everyone else with vision on how to include those not at the event in the event. Today, Cisco would be smart to buy ooVoo and make it telepresence light as the technology would be a very good mass usage way to make telepresence part of everyone's daily life. The other option would be Skype, and as they move more in the SIP direction, that too could be a worthwhile look under the hood for John Chambers' folks.
But to make it all work will require a totally different set up both physically and network wise. For example, a classroom set up is needed so people can have a desk surface for laptops, not just chairs. Better lighting of the audience is needed. More mics are needed around the room.
The idea of a network at the event has to mean more than just WiFi. Audio and video clients require packet prioritization and bigger and better routers, so at the end of the day, all this means is Cisco wins and is sorely needed to provide a Cisco powered network solution.