Illustration by Camille Bossel & graphics from Freepik.com

How To Organise An Amazing Hackathon

Let’s start with the basics -

What is a hackathon *?

Hackathon, a combination of the words hack and marathon, is an event of any duration where people come together to build solutions around a set brief, be that sustainable energy, on-demand applications, food waste, safer travel or pretty much anything you can think of.

* There are many definitions out there for hackathons, but this is ours.

What a hackathon is not ?

  • An event only for programmers and tech enthusiasts.
  • A weekend of unhealthy sleeping habits, unhealthy food and overworked participants.
  • A cheap way for corporates to get outside talent to create a new app or product for them.

A great hackathon should be an opportunity for :

  • Developing your skills and learning new ones.
  • Coming together and working with like-minded individuals.
  • Making new friends and/or business connections
  • Celebrating existing companies, businesses and people who are creating a positive impact.
  • Providing corporates and entrepreneurs with the opportunity to work together .
  • Presenting corporates with the chance to learn from fast-paced and innovative startups and entrepreneurs.
  • Allowing entrepreneurs and startups to learn from experienced businesses and people.
  • Involving local businesses within the startup/entrepreneurial community.
  • Creating real change and raising awareness of both local and global issues.
  • Building future solutions and fostering global innovation

What happens during this time ?

Participants work together in small teams, anywhere between 3 to 6, (or more depending on the event) over a set time, with the aim to build a prototype solution around a set theme or topic. During this time they are also helped by mentors of the event, usually from the sponsors or partners, who provide expert advice to the teams and their projects.

Aside from working on their projects, participants can also join into a series of entertaining events, helpful workshops, yoga breaks or ice cream sessions (or in our case, a bug & wine tasting session) that are set up by the organisers.

At the end of the event, all teams get the chance to pitch in front of a panel of experienced judges and prizes are handed out to the best teams, skilled participants and most innovative solutions. The event is normally finished off with a closing ceremony where corporates, startups and everything in between can grab a drink and relax together.

Why do people go to hackathons ?

Here are just a few reason why people attend hackathons:

  • Learning something new
  • Developing their skills
  • Meeting friends and/or new business contacts
  • Winning Prizes
  • Building something cool
  • Getting hired
  • Attracting investors
  • Working on interesting briefs/topics
  • Changing the world

16 Essential Tips To Organise A Great Hack

  1. Have A Focus — Select and define a relevant and real issue to address. What is the problem you’re trying to address? What do you want people to build? Make sure your brief is clear and the goal of the event is achievable.
  2. Sell Your Hack — If you want great people to come, you’ll have to convince them its worth their time. Great design, an easy to understand website, a clear application form and a full-proof marketing plan are all an essential part of the organising teams promotional toolbox.
  3. Pick The Right Venue — Pick a large and open venue that allows people to collaborate easily. Make sure they have the right bandwidth and on-site facilities to accommodate an event of this scale. Additionally, look for a venue partner who are genuinely interested and passionate about the hackathon, much like our partners, Seedspace for FoodHack.
  4. Pick The Right Date — Are there any holidays on that day? Will people be available to come in? Is there another hackathon going on that weekend?!
  5. Manage Expectations — Realistically only a tiny percentage of hackathon projects lead to real businesses so if your aim is to find the next big startup or idea worth investing in, it’s time for a reality check. Make sure your aims of the event focus on the bigger picture and not just the sponsors/organisers/head honchos goals. Have a read of our aims at FoodHack Geneva to get an idea of what’s achievable.
  6. Have A Clear Judging Criteria — Know what to look for and select a panel of judges that are experts in the field. Judging is the make or break point of the event and you want participants to know the winners deserved it.
  7. Foster Healthy Habits — Everything from the food and drinks choices down to the event rules and policies will make a big difference in the success of your event. Don’t go with pizza and sodas unless you want people to burn out in the first day. And remember, sitting is the new smoking, so schedule activities which get people out of their seats and active.
  8. Make It Fun — It’s not all about winning, most people simply attend to have a good time, meet others and learn new things. Add in entertaining and/or educational events like morning yoga, city walks, panel discussion with partners, “make your own sundae” Sunday, anything to get the creative juices flowing!
  9. Give Everyone An Equal Chance — Ensure everyone begins the race at the same starting point. Don’t put existing startups against individuals as you’re giving the startups an unfair advantage. Make sure it’s clear from the get go of the event if pre-prepared ideas are okay or not and enforce this throughout the event.
  10. Diversity, Diversity, Diversity — What does that mean? Firstly, make sure you’re sourcing your participants from a number of different sources to avoid just one type of group. Design and promote your event in a way to appeal to everyone, males/females youths/seniors and more. Bring on great partners related to your event which include local shops from the nearby area, global businesses and everything in-between. And lastly, ensure your mentors and judges reflect real world demographics.
  11. Get Partners Personally Involved — Get your partners and their employees to attend and show their faces during the event, either as spectators, mentors or judges. People relate to people and it makes for a more friendly event. P.S. Corporates, save your suits for the work week.
  12. Add Motivation — Whether it’s cash, hardware prizes, opportunity for mentorship or chance to pitch in front of high profile investors, give participants some fuel to fire their drive during the event.
  13. Follow Up Correctly — Some people have come to win and if you’ve offered prizes or mentorship afterwards make sure to deliver on these promises.
  14. Dedicate A Problem Solver — Make sure to dedicate one person on your team as a point of reference to anyone who’s unhappy or not enjoying their time. Ideally someone who’s a good listener and great problem solver.
  15. Maximise Exposure — Prior, during and after the event. You’ve just put down a lot of time and resources to make this all possible so why not make the most of the attention you’re getting. Come prepared with a marketing plan and get your attendees, partners, sponsors and interested individuals to spread the word for you.
  16. Enjoy It — Trust me, people know if you’re stressing out on the day. We understand you want the perfect event but not everything is within your control. Participants love mixing up with the staff and the whole event is much more enjoyable when the organisers cut loose a little. At the end of the day, you made the whole thing possible and should be proud of what you’ve achieved.

That’s it for our list, have any more you’d like to add? Comment below and let us know! Excited to join an upcoming hackathon near you? Check out Hack Events to see what’s on.

Illustration by Camille Bossel & resources from Freepik.com

Who are we ?

Organisers of FoodHack Geneva

The first hackathon in Switzerland dedicated to tackling food waste. Foodhack, is a 36-hour, 2 day hackathon taking place this October 29th & 30th where 50 talented participants will come together to create solutions to tackle the future of food waste in Switzerland.

Supported by our incredible partners, Seedspace, Indemand, Eaternity, Grimiam, Wiine.me, Oggi and Foodways participants will have everything they need for a weekend packed full of innovation and activities.

And yes, we’re serious, wine and insects will be on the menu 🐛+🍷=😅

Apply to attend now or get in contact about becoming a partner of FoodHack Geneva !
Illustration by Camille Bossel.

Written by Arman Anaturk

Knows how to cook a Ratatouille. Occasional writer. Co-Founder at OneRoof.Agency

Connect with me on Instagram or Linkedin