What makes a great hackathon?

Hackathon Events must have SWAG (aka Merch)

From the founder of BBC News Labs and the #newsHACK hackathon event series, some tips and tricks.

What makes a great Hackathon?

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.

How do I choose a good Hackathon venue?

Make it close to transport links, near good bars and restaurants, and in a memorable building with good ventilation and lighting. Avoid bland hotels.

How do I frame a Hackathon challenge?

Use the “How might we…. ?” approach to framing an inspirational, open challenge. Avoid specifying technology, and avoid citing other products or approaches.

How long should I make our Hackathon?

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.

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Last Updated : August 25th, 2020