5 Tips for Creating Your First Hackathon




  • — January 18, 2019

    Hackathons have been growing in popularity for the past few years. In fact, in 2016, there was a total of 1568 hackathons organized in the U.S. alone, and that number is only getting bigger every year.

    Hackathons, which are basically events held for any duration where people come together to solve problems, are a great way to connect with new people in the community, improve your skills, and bring together your employees and inspire creativity. Hackathons aren’t just for the tech industry either, many industries can hold hackathons including finance, healthcare, retail, manufacturing, and more.

    So, if you’re here because you’ve competed in hackathons before or even just heard about them and wished you could create your own, keep reading. With a few tips, you too can create a successful hackathon that will have attendees excited to participate in.

    Check out these 5 tips for creating your first hackathon.

    1. Keep it to one day only.

    Don’t get in over your head for your first event, instead keep your hackathon to one day only. Keeping your event to one day will help you in a number of ways. First, a hackathon that’s spread over multiple days is harder to organize; it’ll be like trying to put together multiple events instead of just one. Keep it simple for your first time.

    Plus, with a hackathon that takes place on multiple days, different people will show up for different days and it’ll be harder to keep continuity. So, come up with a few dates you have in mind and poll your group to find out which day works best for everyone.

    2. Pick the project.

    A lot of hackathons allow each participant to pick their own project. But for your first hackathon, it’s a bit easier to organize if you choose one project for everyone to work on in advance. There are a number of things you need to consider when choosing a project for your hackathon including:

    • Feasibility & Attainability – Your group members should actually be able to participate in the project and the project goal should be somewhat attainable in the limited time frame you’re providing so that participants can feel accomplished when the hackathon is over.
    • Easy to Onboard Newcomers – A hackathon is a great place for beginners to practice and increase their skills. So, your project should include tasks that are suitable to newcomers.

    You want your group to be excited about the project, so consider asking them for project ideas as well. And if you’re stumped for ideas or just need a little bit of inspiration, get online and search for hackathon project ideas.

    3. Find the right venue for your needs.

    The point of a hackathon is to get everyone together working on a project and solving problems, so to do that you need to actually bring everyone together in one space. Depending on the size of your hackathon group, you might need to find a venue where you can hold your hackathon. If you’ve got a small group and your own office space to use, then you’re all set. But if don’t have your own office space and your hackathon group is a bit larger, you’ll need to reserve a space for your event.

    Now, we don’t suggest you go renting a venue for your first hackathon, because professional venues can be quite expensive — unless it’s in your budget of course. For a more budget-friendly venue, you can check around for libraries and co-working spaces that you can reserve. The venue you choose will need enough seating for your group, preferably tables with seating on each side, and most importantly fast and reliable wifi. Don’t forget that your participants need to eat too! So, make sure the venue you choose allows you to bring food in.

    4. Choose cooperative or competitive.

    Next you need to determine whether your hackathon is going to be cooperative or competitive. Typically, when a hackathon isn’t held internally and is open for anyone to join, they’re set up for friendly competition and big prizes are involved to attract participants. That’s perfectly fine if that’s the type of hackathon you want to have.

    But if you’re holding an internal hackathon, you should consider making it cooperative. Hackathons are a great way to bring your team together, encourage creativity, and discover new ideas. Your first internal hackathon should be fun, without the added pressure of trying to win. Although, you can still reward your team after a successful hackathon by giving them a group prize like taking them all out to dinner after or treating them to another fun activity like a team trip to an arcade.

    5. Communicate on a regular basis.

    Any event needs to be promoted in order for it to be a success. So, months before your hackathon, you need to communicate with your hackathon2 participants and fellow organizers on a regular basis. First, you should send out an email newsletter inviting everyone to participate in your hackathon. Be sure to let them know all the details including the date, time, location, tools they need to bring, as well as the rules of the game and how everything will be organized. Keep your communication going right up until your hackathon to keep people interested and excited to attend by sending recaps of proposed project ideas for instance.

    You should also consider setting up a place where all the hackathon attendees can talk to each other and get updates regarding the event. You could set up a dedicated channel on a messaging service like Slack or create a Facebook group or event page.

    Over to you.

    Any time you hold an event for the first time, there’s bound to be a few hiccups, so don’t worry about it. Just relax and have fun! With these tips for creating your first hackathon though, you’ll be better prepared to host an event that’s not only a great time, but beneficial for everyone that attends.

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    Author: Thomas Griffin

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