My university sent out the GHC 2016 emails recently. I have always wanted to go, because every year I see every single one of my female CS friends go there. The vast majority of them are sponsored by their companies, so they don't really have anything to present. My question is, is attending GHC in such a situation of any use at all? I have always felt that you get more respect in a conference and also more contacts (because of people wanting to talk to you) when you actually contribute something to it as opposed to being a passive observer. But I am not sure.
My second question, as the title says, I am a first year PhD student, so I don't really have any one big project I'm working on, just small projects I've been doing to get a feel for my field. So I can't present anything worthwhile. As a student, is there a way to go to GHC as only an observer (not presenter)? I mean, in case I conclude that simply attending will be useful too, I'd like to give it a shot, but can't find anything like on their website.