What to keep in mind when organising a hackathon? A practical guide for companies that do it for the first time
Mar 20, 2017
It has been long since organising a hackathon (codefest) ceased to be the exclusive domain of technology companies. It is also successfully practised in other industries. If you are thinking about organising such an event in your company or want to become its sponsor - we will tell you what you should keep in mind to make the event successful.
Set goals you want to achieve
Before you start promoting your hackfest, think what is its overriding goal? What do you want to achieve? What is a problem to be solved? What kind of tool is to be created? Participants must know this earlier to be sure that when suggesting their solutions they are moving in the right direction. Hackathon usually lasts many hours. Make sure this is a valuable time for programmers, designers, testers, and anyone else who devotes their weekend to take part in it. Hackathon participants are a very specific group of people: keen to learn and explore new tools, eager to involve in co-operation and networking. Show them that you know what you care about and that you appreciate their presence. Prepare a concept that fits into the politics and philosophy of your business. Set a budget, write regulations, and consider the rules for participating in the event.
Attract motivated participants
The hackfest that you decide to organize should be attended by as many satisfied participants as possible. There is a strong likelihood that the turnout will be equally successful when the event is held again. To do so, however, you need to promote the hackathon. Reach your audience, find relevant groups on social networks, work with schools and universities. Try to get information about qualifications of people who might be partakers of your hackathon. Think about the creation of prerequisite tasks before it starts - they will help you to verify the level of knowledge, interests and skills of professionals who sign up for the event. Take advantage of professional marathon platforms (both online and onsite) that will provide you with the tools you need to successfully carry out this event (such as the application for registering participants and for competition tasks). The final number of participants who decide to arrive at the hackathon is one thing. Another issue is that they are fully engaged, motivated and curious about the challenges they are to face.
Remember about mentors and sponsors
There are several major reasons why talented programmers take part in hack days. It is most often the desire to build a new tool, solve a specific problem and meet new people. They also want to test their skills, gain new business contacts, win awards or find an interesting job. Among these reasons it is also the desire to broaden their knowledge. Therefore establish cooperation with valued professionals who will attract even more people to your event. Let it be a blogger, a specialist in a given field, a successful entrepreneur who wants to share his success with your audience, a representative of a big technology company who will give an interesting lecture or conduct an additional training. Sponsors will help you finance your event by sharing, for example, organizational costs (room, meals, gadgets) as well as major prizes (cash or in-kind). However, in order to win valuable sponsors who will attract participants and the media as well as other partners, you need to showcase your values and demonstrate a professional approach.
Share the necessary work tools
The place where your codefest will be held must have a great Wi-Fi - this is a must. Put information on connecting to Wi-Fi in a visible and easily accessible place and make sure the network is secure. There should also be an alternative in case there are problems with wireless Internet. Inform in advance your ISP of increased user activity during the marathon and a large number of IP addresses logging in at this time. Share the computers and make sure there are enough sockets at every workstation. Hackathon participants usually bring more than one electronic device that will need to be recharged somewhere. Think of boards, flipcharts, sheets of paper, pens and pencils - they will certainly be useful during design work in groups.
What are the benefits of a hackathon for your company?
- it quickly solves specific problems
- it provides new solutions in several dozen hours, which can then be relatively quickly implemented
- it is an effective HR tool: provides access to qualified technology professionals who can become employees of a company organizing the marathon
- it can be carried out in a company of every industry (medical, financial, energy, manufacturing) as well as in public (city offices, cultural institutions) and social institutions (non-governmental organizations)
- it improves the image of the company, making it perceived as more innovative and more modern than the competition
- builds Employer Branding and brand trust