The health track at SXSW is a sprawling, many-tentacled beast that devours all those who choose to enter its sphere of influence, and even some who don’t. Over the course of its four-day run, it is draining and exhausting and maddening.

And I wouldn’t miss it for the world, because it almost always ranks among the most energizing and enlightening weekends of the year.

Medical marketers have no end of conferences to choose from. (That includes MM+M’s Transform event on April 3.) For my money, SXSW is the best multi-day conference in our sphere — and in the marketing sphere in general. No conference can command as many attendees and sponsors as SXSW, and this year was no exception.

But that’s not what gets me stoked. Like many readers of this site, I work remotely. Three days at home and two days in the office. I love the convenience of working from home and avoiding NJ Transit. But I find myself increasingly looking forward to in-office days to see my colleagues and benefit from the kismet of in-person collaboration. I usually come away from a day in the city thinking how lucky I am to work with so many committed people.

That’s what I love about SXSW. For the most part, speakers and panelists are next-level smart. They talk about really cool ideas, coming at issues and problems from educated vantage points. The ecosystem for medical marketers expands at SXSW, and I hear from parts of the sphere with which I don’t usually come into contact.

Then there are the random encounters with people doing interesting things who are articulate enough to explain it to a layman like me. Case in point: a long talk Friday night at a reception with a scientist from a small biotech company working on a psilocybin derivative to treat pain and PTSD. As I type this, I am wearing a Grateful Dead concert t-shirt, a clue to the extent of my knowledge of psilocybin. The fact that this once highly taboo substance could help PTSD victims was as amazing to me as the passion with which my scientist friend explained her work.

So too was the coffee with a speaker working to overcome biases in algorithms based on flawed data. The chance conversation about podcast narrative and episode planning with a young podcaster who doesn’t work in healthcare but thought the topic sounded interesting. The guy at the bar next to me who decided to start investing in healthcare when he had a bad experience having a stent installed and figured he could do it better. And on and on.

If you haven’t been to SXSW and you are even remotely curious or looking for a reminder of why you work in this field, start making plans for SXSW 2025. And be sure to try Stubbs BBQ.