I was listening to Ted Neward on Hanselminutes from the NDC, and he mentions that local conferences are taking away from professional conferences like VSLive and DevConnections. His hypothesis is that if these professional conferences go away, then capable speakers will not have the incentive to go around teaching.
Whether you call it Capitalism or Darwinism, I agree with Scott. It is up to the conference to offer a compelling experience. The conference is selling a product, and the product has to have a value proposition. If struggling conferences can’t provide a value proposition, then they will simply lose market share to other conferences that do.
I don’t think death will ever come to the professional speaker. The conference venues may change, but it will change as a reaction to changes in the market. I became a professional speaker in 2007, and I am confident that I will always find compelling conference venues in which to participate.