Since returning from NI Connect last month, I have gotten asked this question several times. There are a few things to consider before answering this question.
NI Connect is not NI Week
A lot of the confusion comes from NI rebranding what was NI week as NI Connect. People are unsure what to expect. More has changed than just the name. In case anybody has missed it, NI has dramatically changed its strategy over the past decade. They started focusing on larger customers, particularly around their Business Units - SemiConductor, Automotive, and Aviation/Defense/Government. The switch to NI Connect is very much related to this change in focus.
A change in focus
NI Week was a sales conference with a heavy developer focus. It was always about NI promoting its latest products, but at least in recent years, there was a good developer track and good attendance by developers including a developer-focused LAVA BBQ. NI Connect is not a sales conference or a developers conference, but rather a networking conference. It's about connecting NI and its partners with NI's larger customers. To be fair there was a developer track and there was a small expo hall for NI to show off its latest wares, but the focus was definitely on connecting those 3 groups of people. There were not a lot of attendees outside those groups, so not a lot of general LabVIEW Developers in attendence, and certainly no LAVA BBQ.
Before deciding to go to NI Connect or not, it is worth looking at the other options out there.
There are now 3 GDevCon events going on: Europe, North America, and Australia. There's also talk of one in Latin America. GDevCon bills itself as the User Group of User Groups. It is organized by developers for developers. It's got lots of really great developer-centric presentations and networking opportunities. There are also some developer workshops that have sprung up around it.
The GLA summit is its own thing. It is a free 24-hour worldwide virtual conference. Like GDevCon it is organized by and for developers. It's got lots of great developer content from around the world.
Which Should I Attend?
Attending GLA Summit is pretty much a no-brainer. It's free and it's virtual. The cost to attend is $0 and you can come and go as you please so you can spend as much or as little of your time as you want there. There's no reason not to attend.
Choosing between GDevCon and NI Week depends on your goals, which in turn depends on your role.
As a developer
There is good developer content at both NI Connect and GDevCon. That really shouldn't be the deciding factor though since the presentations at both are recorded and made available for free after the fact. I wouldn't go to either one just to see the presentations. You can watch the ones you want after the fact. The real choice is: Do you want to network with NI's large customers and NI R&D at NI Connect? or Do you want to network with other developers at GDevCon? As a developer, I personally lean more toward GDevCon. I feel like it is a more developer-centric conference. NOTE: I am biased since I am the President of GDevCon N.A. As a developer the only real reason I see to go to NI Connect is to network with NI R&D. If you don't need that, then I recommend GDevCon.
As a consultant
If you are a consultant or in more of a sales role, looking to connect with customers, then NI Connect is more appealing. It's a much larger audience and the percentage of potential clients is much higher. I will say that this past year as a consultant I felt a little left out. It felt like NI was paying much more attention to the larger integrator partners and the consultants were a bit of an afterthought. NI has gotten that feedback, so hopefully that will improve next year.