How to run an amazing hackathon (part two)

Robbie Presenting

By Kerry Topp

In part one of this story, we looked at the big picture – what you need to think about ahead of time, and who you need to consult. In part two, we’ll look into the nitty gritty logistical detail.

Define the key milestones
The key milestones in a hackathon are:

  • Finalise the theme
  • Set date
  • Launch event/registrations open
  • Registrations close
  • Training
  • Finalise numbers for catering
  • Run the event
  • Post-event round up

Build the plan and execute on it
From there, think about logistics and build your plan. For brevity I have assumed that you are running your own internal hackathon, not an external event where you might charge for attendance.

Start planning 8-10 weeks out. Be careful to look out for scheduling conflicts with other major events or potentially look to leverage these events if you think this makes sense. One year, the Datacomp organising committee – who were predominantly made up of fathers – missed a scheduling conflict with Father’s Day.

The plan you build can be lo-fi or it can be run on a tool such as Project or Trello. To make it easier I have put the plan together in order of when completion of the task is required.

  • Theme – create an interesting or fun theme that has a ‘hook’ for would-be participants
  • Test the theme – test the theme with would-be attendees, see what their reaction is
  • Start and end time – decide when you want to kick off and when you want to finish. Friday evening through to Saturday or Sunday is best
  • Duration – Decide on the event’s length. 24-48 hours is ideal
  • Food – test and decide on meals, snacks, drinks. Offer vegetarian and vegan options and ensure you have enough for everyone. Best advice: don’t skimp on the food!
  • Power – Have power boards available for each team and ensure there are enough power outlets as a lack of power has the potential to make or break your event
  • Networking – This is an imperative, it absolutely must work! Make sure you have a wired and wireless backup available and expect two connections per attendee
  • Audio visual equipment – ensure you have a projector, mic, recording equipment etc and test ahead of time. Don’t leave this to chance – particularly if you are planning to live stream
  • Livestream, video and photography – this is another must do. It allows you to tell a story and create a connection which will live long after the event is finished
  • Presentation and Q&A length – Five minutes is good – three for the pitch and two for Q&A.
  • Judges – Select the best possible judges from across industry – including startups and larger enterprises
  • Training – depending on the type of challenge, training workshops can take place ahead of the event and are a great way for newbies to come up to speed, but also for all participants to pick up new skills
  • Prizes – Prizes should be subject to budget

General Rules of Thumb
The following general rules of thumb stand based on what we have seen running these types of events;

  • Budget – you can set your budget anywhere, however we’d suggest budgeting NZD$250-300 per person
  • Registrations – you are likely to get 15-20% of your target total population if you run the event on a weekend. This generally increases to 20-25% if the events are run during working hours
  • No-shows or drop outs – you are likely to see around 10-15% of your original registrations drop out so plan your catering and venue selection on this basis
  • On the day – you are likely to find that 20-25% will turn up on the day without having given any thought to what they might do during the event.

Other sources of hackathon information

One thought on “How to run an amazing hackathon (part two)

  1. Pingback: How to run an amazing hackathon (part one) | Datacom Blog

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