A pretrial conference is where the judge/parties set the trial date and the final schedule of deadlines. It follows the discovery stage.
Tread carefully in attempting to litigate your own case without an attorney. It would be wise to consult with an attorney in a confidential forum at some point prior to trial.
A pre-trial conference is usually to discuss possible settlement. If you have not done discovery the court may set up a discovery schedule.
I am a former federal and State prosecutor and now handle criminal defense and personal injury/civil rights cases. Feel free to check out my web site and contact me at (212) 577-9797 or via email at Eric@RothsteinLawNY.com. I was named to the Super Lawyers list as one of the top attorneys in New York for 2012. No more than 5 percent of the lawyers in the state are selected by Super Lawyers. The above answer is for informational purposes only and not meant as legal advice.