How to organize a winning company hackathon — Pt.3: Logistics
Gantt — organize
Let’s start off with one of our top-secret tools, it’s simple and super useful — A GANTT CHART.
You can take a look at our Gantt template to get a better idea of things:
We divided all tasks into 11 main domains (feel free to tweak it):
- Teaming up and hackathon challenges
- IT + equipment
- Communications with the company
- judging and closing event + winners
- Fun activities during the hackathon
- Hackathon opening
- Logistics + cleaning
Each domain has a designated owner and every task has a task owner. For example: there are 7 tasks under the “Communications with the company” domain. Elay is the domain owner and the 7 tasks are divided between Elay, Shir, and Ran. It’s Elay’s responsibility to make sure his domain’s tasks are taken care of.
We had 5 weeks to organize the hackathon, so the Gantt was divided that way. For example: if you need to order something online, you should start with that task first since it might take time for the delivery to arrive.
Let’s say you have 25 tasks in total, spread across the different domains. Focus on the tasks that are relevant to the current week. That way you can maximize efficiency and you won’t have to deal with things at the last minute.
In addition to the Gantt, we had a Slack channel that helped us stay in sync.
Limit the number of meetings
We had 10 meetings in total, including brainstorming, logistics planning, and syncing. All team meetings had a specific agenda, most of them didn’t take longer than 30 minutes (we love efficiency).
In the past, I was involved in planning a hackathon where we had too many meetings, we didn’t start with the top priority tasks, and eventually, we just wasted a lot of time and unnecessary energy. So try to be as efficient as possible and stick to the Gantt timeline.
Before you start to plan anything, understand what your total budget is. Make a rough plan of how much you want to spend for each domain, taking into consideration food, prizes, giveaways, decorations, activities, hardware, etc.
It’s pretty easy to spend money on a hackathon. There’s so much cool stuff you want to do, and sometimes you might wind up buying the same products twice, or you may lose track of all the suppliers’ payments. Be sure to keep an eye on the budget and stick to it at all times — we recommend using a shared Google spreadsheet so everyone on the team knows the current status of the budget.
Some teams might need special hardware for their ideas — strong GPUs, VR devices, IoT devices, etc. Ask the teams to include hardware requirements when they send their project ideas and add a deadline for the hardware asking. Coordinate with the IT team and make a note of which hardware they already have available.
Work with the IT team
In our case, Elay, the developer on the team, worked closely with our company’s IT department. They helped us prepare for the event presentation, display the countdown timer on screens in the office (remember those, from the last blog post?), get the hardware for the teams, play sound effects on all the office speakers, and even just handle the simple stuff like getting extension cords and outlet splitters.
Prepare a list of everything you’ll need from them in advance, and give it to them as soon as possible, so they’ll be able to supply everything on time. Don’t assume they have all these things just lying around.
Be a genie
Think about the moment you finish a very hard backpacking trek in hot weather and you see a small cold lemonade stand at the end of the road 🍹. You say to yourself — this is awesome, it’s just what I needed and here it is!
That’s exactly what logistics is all about:
- Place refreshment kits, toothbrushes, and toothpaste next to the bathroom, where people will go to freshen up
- Organize food buffets on 4 different tables to avoid a long line (especially when people are getting hungry)
- Screen the schedule around the work areas, where people spend most of their time
Now to the fun part :) In Soluto we love getting prizes, so we had three types of winners:
- R&D Pick — VP R&D gave a prize to the team with the best project technology-wise
- Product Pick — VP Product gave a prize to the team with the most innovative product
- Hackathon Winners — All the employees voted using a scoring system (we’ll cover this in the next blog post) and the team with the highest score won the grand prize
The first two teams (R&D Pick and Product Pick) got cool travel bottles with the company’s logo on them. The purpose of these categories was to push teams to have good R&D and product innovation.
The team that was named Hackathon Winners had a variety of options to choose from — from Apple AirPods to Robot vacuum cleaners. Every member of the winning team picked one prize and we got it for them the next day.
In the next blog post, we’ll fill you in on how the scoring system worked and how the hackathon winners were chosen.
Peace and Love,
Shir & Elay