Hackathon is a wonderful way to create brand awareness which is an integral part of employer branding. It also plays a very important role in getting fresh ideas from multiple sources, since it is likely that no two participants will think the same, this helps the organizer to garner something different and unique every time.
Similar to other initiatives, Hackathons cannot give optimum outcomes until we strategize prior to execution. Strategy has always been vital to human civilization, from every war to building new infrastructure, a sound strategy has been at its core and offers multiple benefits in the form of clarity, confidence and a sharp fall in expenditure (drop in wastage of due to mismanagement). After all, we launch activities to fulfill a specific goal, don’t we?
For first-timers and veterans, the strategy can be a bit of a problem until and unless they are well aware of the process, in this article we will explore the ways to strategize so that the end goal is met.
Why do I want to organize a Hackathon?
This is a million dollar question which might seem an easy thing to answer at the first sight but can be tricky when we actually get involved in it and not get overly excited about our new endeavour.
Hackathons can range from coding challenges to generating new ideas, the scope here is big and expandable. One needs to be clear of the domain and goal which can be determined by the actual benefit they are going to derive from it.
Once it is clear, half the battle is already won as we can streamline our approach aimed at that particular goal.
Connect with Enthusiastic Participants ahead of Time
Like any other engagement, participants are the most important part of Hackathons. They are the ones who will come up with new ideas and create the brand image. If one is aware of the ‘Trickle Down Effect’, a satisfied participant will draw in more talent by spreading the word around about the competition.
So connecting with the attendees or participants is absolutely necessary beforehand, and it should be one of the initial things to begin the event with. The success of a Hackathon rests on participation in big numbers with other variables as well along with a sizeable number of attendees in the audience. This will require a well-planned strategy, like social media coverage, visiting campuses etc. By doing this, participants can forge relationships and generate ideas before the event.
Ritz of Big Sponsors are always Captivating
Bagging a good sponsor, preferably a known commodity in the market can fulfil two expectations- exciting prizes and getting associated with their brand name. These are two things a participant will initially look for.
It can be beneficial for the organizer as they will get an extra benefit of not chasing too hard for promotions, which can be taken care of by the sponsor to some extent. Both satisfied participants and sponsors will always return with more the next year.
Ensure Flawless Tech Support
Well, I haven’t seen many people talk about technical support which happens to be the backbone of any technical competition. Technical glitches should be avoided as it spoils the impression among the participants and attendees alike. Since the whole competition runs on backend support, it should be a top priority to ensure that everything is working perfectly.
Things to be kept in mind for onsite Hackathon:
- Find a place which is away from cacophonous crowd and traffic with locker facilities
- Ensure a stable WiFi connection and also backup in case WiFi goes off
- Make sure the Wi-Fi is well-secured.
- Make sure WiFi is easy to access for all attendees (hand out cards and/or post signs with the Wi-Fi details)
- Keep extra laptops/hardware
- Arrange for a power backup
- Make sure you have spare cables and USB drives available
- If this is a hardware Hackathon, allow for extra power
Rules to avoid any confusion
Rules are the blueprint on which the Hackathon is built, and rules can range from simple to complex depending upon its structure. It’s better to give clarity at the start rather than suffer and deal with issues later.
It is advisable to inform them about the complete set of rules and guidelines of a Hackathon while the participants are registering for the same. Rules include the mission, time allotted, limits of software or hardware being created, and sources/data participants can use to create their product.
Send out notification emails in case of any change in the rules. Participants should be very clear about judging criteria before the start of the event to avoid any confusion later.
Focus on realistic outcomes
Hackathons can be great idea generators that can profoundly affect the area they are focused on, be it supply chain, food, healthcare, entertainment, environment, etc. However, one needs to stay grounded and not expect that the ideas generated via Hackathon will make the organizer to own the next billion dollar company.
Hackathon itself means to hack the conventional ideas or problems and solve it with a new approach. It will help to generate ideas, increase networking, and understand more about the industry and topic that participants are addressing.
One should be presumptuous about the actual participation by analyzing the soaring registrations. It is likely 30-40 percent of them won’t turn up due to a variety of reasons. Always aim for a larger amount of registrations so that the core expectation is met.
It’s time for some introspection:
- Do we want to choose winners?
Some hackathons are conducted solely get in fresh ideas rather than choosing a winner and that winning idea is going to bring in a revenue. Sometimes, it’s simply to generate ideas and start a movement and not bank too many hopes and anticipation. Such hackathons do not have a panel of judges or prizes to offer.
- Who do we need to judge?
Hackathons with problem-solving ideas can be employed by companies and organizations which can eradicate an issue faced by such institutions. In such cases, Hackathons choose winners. In order to choose a winner, make sure you have a fair panel of judges, consisting of a wide array of experts who have opinions and knowledge about the industry you are addressing. The judges should not be the main organizers of the event.
- Is it all about the Prizes?
Prizes can be a decisive factor in drawing in attendees, however, it should not be the lone thing, because there are chances that the quality of innovation will be compromised.
It should be a learning experience rather than making it a game that pays well. Convey clearly what are you looking for and meet the participants to instil excitement and keep the innovation drive alive. Give participants access to the data they need to move forward with their respective plans. You don’t want your event to be lost in the shuffle of hackathons and tech conferences. Make it stand out from the rest.
Miscellaneous things for smoother functioning
A peaceful mind and a healthy body can perform greater feats as compared to the mind which is engrossed and clouded. This statement holds true for competitions like Hackathons. Nosh, Entertainment, and Sleep (NES) are the three most important things which are necessary to maintain a balanced mindset while participating in any mind-centric competition.
Store ample amount of Nosh both healthy and junk because a working mind needs an extra nourishment. Continuous focus is hard to achieve and can drive anyone insane so small breaks are necessary. Arrange some Playstations or similar gaming consoles if possible to help participants to refresh and relax their minds.
Sleep is the most potent natural method to de-stress. Keep mattresses or deck beds to make the way for a comfortable repose for the participants. And do keep PCO booths so that people can freely speak to their near and dear ones without disturbing others.
These tips can be taken as a guiding document, however, the organizer can always resort to further innovation and personalization in order to make the engagement a successful one.