I have attended a couple of 'real world' conferences since I joined CILIP a year ago. I've found them to be really worthwhile experiences where I have learnt a lot. I know from experience that some people only see them as a free day off work and not a learning experience and this always makes me feel sad for those that would have loved a place but couldn't go.
So far, as well as the Libraries @ Cambridge conference that I have been to for the past few years I have been lucky enough to get sponsorship from CILIP to attend the CIG conference last September and more recently the Umbrella conference in July. I got a lot out of these events, learning about new thing and meeting new people. Meeting new people is the best thing to come out of these conferences for me but it doesn't come naturally. I'm naturally a very shy person and talking to strangers is not that easy for me. I would say that a conference is a good place to practice this skill though, since everyone there at least shares one common interest!
This does mean of course that there is no way that I can see myself speaking at a conference any time in the near future. Maybe this isn't the right thing to admit but I know I just couldn't get up in front of an audience and speak! When I went to Umbrella I presented a poster for cpd23 and I would encourage anyone else who has a similar fear but wants to conquer it to try this route. You only have to talk to a few people at a time, and often individually, meaning that some of the pressure is off. It's a way to get your message across at conferences without having to stand up in front of everyone and an excellent way to meet people.
I'm also going to echo the point made in the cpd post that you will never get any funding unless you ask for it. Remember - the worst that anyone can say is no, and at least you will know that you tried. Yes, funding bodies generally want you to do something in return. For example, I had to guest blog from the CIG conference and write an article about Umbrella but these are good examples of professional development in their own right and will hopefully look good on the CV. So my final advice would be: ASK! You will never know unless you try!