Scientific conferences provide valuable opportunities for researchers across career stages and disciplines to present their latest work and to network with their peers. The advent of the internet has opened new possibilities for interaction, collaboration and networking, yet the uptake of tools enabling remote participation at scientific meetings has been slow. Academic conferences have become more international with high proliferation in the number of meetings and attendees, but the format and quality of their organization lags behind what is possible. As a result, the experience of attending conferences in many disciplines today is not appreciably different in many respects. A few conferences in some disciplines have recently implemented valuable changes for the community and have become more receptive to attendees with families. Many meetings could still be improved significantly in terms of diversity, inclusivity, promoting early career researcher (ECR) networking and career development, venue accessibility, and more importantly, reducing the meetings’ carbon footprint. These issues are openly visible and to some extent discussed among researchers on social media. It is important to accelerate and mandate these efforts so that researchers in all disciplines, in particular ECRs, consistently benefit from scientific gatherings, for years to come. We examined the current state of over 260 national and international academic meetings in various disciplines for features of inclusivity and sustainability and propose solutions to make conferences more modern, effective, equitable and intellectually productive for the research community and environmentally sustainable for our planet.