It was 600 smart people all in one place: engineers, technical managers, educators, academics, NASA representatives from Ames and Glenn and MSFC, and everyman types like me, all of whom understood the magnitude of the challenge.
It was a gathering where you could dare to use the word "starship" in a sentence and nobody would crack a smile.
There were tracks on propulsion (light sails, nuclear thermal and hybrid nuclear technologies), habitat creation (bioengineering, microgravity challenges, plasma shields), education (there were lots of educators in the audience), organization, ethics. One university type - I forget his name - boldly asserted that there would be useful violations of the second law of thermodynamics in a couple of years. (I didn't quite believe that, so I did a little reading when I returned; it seems that the second "law" is more like a statistical assertion, so maybe he's got something. IANAPhysicist.)
There was a track on fringe technologies too, those FTL and warp drives you laugh about. I didn't attend that one; at the conference wrap-up the track moderator only said politely that there "was no concensus".
A double handful of SF authors were there and a couple of Hollywood types too, all conducting their own research.
Nobody came here expecting to be beamed up. Nobody was thinking Flash Gordon or Jean Luc Picard. Everyone fully appreciated the immensity of the project, the audacity of such a thing, the difficulty of the undertaking. It was inspiring to be in the company of people who had thought seriously about some of the issues, and who dared to dream big. All brainstorming is like this.
An underlying theme, mentioned several times during the conference, is that Earth "is a single point of failure".
Per the organizers: "The Journal of the British Interplanetary Society will be publishing a select number of papers in a special issue. Date of the special issue has not yet been announced."