What should I ask from attendees?

Registration is the first place hackers will interface with you and your event. Every registration will be a new data point about the attendees you could potentially have at your event. It’s your best chance to capture all of the info you’ll need to successfully run your event. You should make sure to include the following fields:

Name: You’ve got to collect this so you know who’ll be attending. Best practice is to ask for first name and last name separately. That way you’ll be able to easily send out emails addressed directly to a participant. This has to be a required field.

Email: This is so you can contact all your participants. If you’re able to validate this field, be sure to do so. This has to be a required field.

Phone Number: In the event of an emergency, having the phone number of a hacker can massively reduce the amount of stress that comes with handling an emergency. Calling someone is always going to be your best bet if you need to contact someone urgently. If your form tool is able to validate this field, best practice is to have the number validate to the E.164 number format so you’ll be able to use it with other services (Twilio for example) in the future. This has to be a required field.

Age: Collecting ages is important because that’ll let you know if you need to do any additional due diligence around minors. If folks are younger than 18, you’ll need to take additional steps to host them at your event. Collecting that information in registration will let you know who to contact if you’re not able to host minors. Additionally, you shouldn’t store the information of anyone 13 or younger. If you are allowing folks 13 or younger to attend your event, you’ll need to make sure the information provided is from a parent rather than the participant themselves.

School: With schools, you should provide a list of schools via a dropdown, otherwise you run the risk of needing to standardize your data down the line. To give you an example of why this is so important, on the last survey we ran where we didn’t standardize this information, students told us they attended Rutgers by using 14 different variations of Rutgers The State University of New Jersey. The number of variations increases if you take into account how often people fail to spell check a submission. Check out this gist for an easy list you can import into your application to avoid this problem — https://gist.github.com/Shy/f1dae36fc9f750ca78723eacd246252e.

Gender: Collecting gender information lets you gather insight into the demographics of your hackathon. It’s vital that the way you format collecting gender information is itself inclusive. Check out this article for more information in some of the options you can take with formatting your gender question: http://itspronouncedmetrosexual.com/2012/06/how-can-i-make-the-gender-question-on-an-application-form-more-inclusive/#sthash.2uxJBeV6.SkHNjsBa.dpbs.

Dietary restrictions: Since you’ll be providing food for your event, it’s important for you to know and then accommodate any registrations that people may have. It’s an awful feeling to show up to an event and not be able to eat or even potentially be in a space because an organizer didn’t ask about dietary restrictions. This has to be a required field.

Special needs: Similar to dietary restrictions, if anyone needs assistance being at your event, it’s best to know what special needs that people have so you’ll be able to plan and accommodate them well in advance of your event. The last thing you want to happen is have someone show up at your event and not be able to participate because of something you could have planned for had you known in advance. This has to be a required field.

Resumes: If you plan on providing resumes to your sponsors, registration is the place you should capture those documents. It’s much easier to grab those documents as a person signs up to attend your hackathon, rather than down the line in an RSVP stage. If you plan on sharing this information with a sponsor, make sure that you explicitly state what you’ll be doing with the document. It should be similar to the MLH Data Sharing provision that we ask every hackathon organizer in the league to include. It’s very common for attendees to confuse this as a necessary admission requirement when signing up, when in actuality it’s optional that you’ll be giving to sponsors.

You’ll need to add additional fields so you can collect other information. Hopefully, these fields will give you a good starting point when setting up your registration.

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