From the founder of BBC News Labs and the #newsHACK hackathon event series, some tips and tricks.
1. An inspirational shared challenge.
2. A great venue, at a great location.
3. Maximised “hacking” time, and minimised interruptions.
4. A focus on making it a joy for participants; support, refreshments, attention.
Make it close to transport links, near good bars and restaurants, and in a memorable building with good ventilation and lighting. Avoid bland hotels.
Use the “How might we…. ?” approach to framing an inspirational, open challenge. Avoid specifying technology, and avoid citing other products or approaches.
Typically, Hackathon events 1-3 days, with the sweet spot being 2 days. 1 Day is fine for an “in house” company Hackathon, and generally 3 days is too long for people to “get away from the day job”.
The Top 5 things to remember for a Great Hackathon
1) An inspirational shared challenge
Choose a problem that all participants are interested in solving, so that you have a shared mission. You can use a “How might we …?” question to frame the challenge. Be sure to keep it broad and unrestricted.
2) A great venue at a great location
Avoid bland hotel spaces, and industrial estates out of town. Think: natural light, unusual, spacious, within buzzing communities, and good transport links.
3) Maximum “hacking” time, and minimum interruptions.
Get the participants in quick, and kick off rapidly. Avoid making participants sit through sponsors’ or stakeholders’ presentations (do those as trade stands at the side of the room instead). Do not interrupt your participants
4) Focus on making it a joy for participants
Provide comprehensive support – whatever you can afford: Technical, Expert, User Testing, Artistic, Physical materials, etc!
5) Fresh food and refreshments
Refreshments are essential – make sure they are always available, and ensure that the catering provides good, hot, diverse food.
Hack events are only good when they are done well!
A hack event design is easy to screw-up. Avoid common pitfalls and find out more about designing a great hack event here.
Are you short on time?
Use these templates to help with business best practice:
From “green light” through to your event day, this guide helps you roll out your Hackathon. Avoid common issues, and get pointers for a great event.See: Hackathon Rollout Guide – Getting Ready: Generate Excitement and Avoid Mistakes (PPT & Keynote)
Keep track of your Hackathon Event tasks: This Hackathon Task Checklist is based on years of experience, and makes event rollout simple.See: Hackathon Task Checklist and Status Dashboard (Excel)
Requirements and Costs vary massively between Hackathon events. Use this Excel Hackathon Budget Template to select which line items you need, and then to populate with real figures for your target Venue, Participant count, and aspirational format.See: Hackathon Budget Sheet Excel Template
Running a 2-Day Hackathon – Use our Simple Steps and avoid common issues. Keep the event moving, and your participants happy!See: 2 Day Hackathon Guide – Simple Step by Step – plus the mistakes to avoid