Day-Of Hackathon Blocking, Tackling & Facilitation

Shane Reiser
Jun 14, 2017 · 6 min read

Welcome to Part 5 of our series on throwing impactful corporate hackathons. In Part 4 we talked about promoting your event and recruiting talented hackers to attend.

In this post, we focus on day-of activities and event facilitation strategies.

It’s the day of your hackathon. You didn’t sleep well, lying in bed searching the back of your mind for that one thing you forgot to do. What could it be? Was it important?

No matter — you’re prepared. You’ve got your Run of Show document to guide you through it!

Download our Hackathon Run of Show Template.

Arrival Checklist

When you arrive at the venue (we recommend 2 hours before the event), run through this checklist:

  • Call first food vendor to confirm delivery and set-up times
  • Walkthrough with venue contact
  • Make sure WiFi is working (
  • Make sure room is setup properly:
  • tables for participants
  • tables for food
  • chairs
  • power strips
  • extension cords
  • trash cans
  • bathrooms are unlocked and clean
  • Connect laptop to projector, put up welcome slide
  • Set up registration table (waiver forms, name tags)
  • Set up table with all supplies
  • Setup equipment (3D printers, soldering stations, etc)
  • Play music (try this playlist)
  • Put out directional signage if finding the room is not obvious

Facilitator Talking Points

In addition to making random announcements and keeping the event on schedule, the facilitator has two primary moments stage: The initial kickoff on day 1 and the start of the demos on day 2.

For the initial kickoff:

  • “Welcome to HACKALACKATHON! My name is Shane. I’ll be your emcee for the next 24 hours.
  • “Let me do a quick poll. Who here is an engineer or any type? Developer? Designer? Student?…
  • “Awesome — well we appreciate all of you giving us your time over the next 24 hours, even if it’s just for the free food. We’ve excited to see what you all come up with.
  • “Let’s jump right into it and talk about the event challenge:
  • Introduce the business owner and ask them to explain the challenge and answer questions.
  • Go over the rules. “These are the rules: There really are none! You can use code that you brought with you, you can have remote teammates working with, you can use any other devices and any open source libraries. Go crazy. Feel free to get creative. You can build weird stuff. You can build stuff that actually has a real-world application and helps people (and we hope you do). Either way, all intellectual property is yours.
  • “I know you’re all excited to get started. Let me go over the schedule and a few housekeeping items before you all go crazy. In a few moments when I’m done, the shot clock starts and you’ll have 24 hours before demo presentations, which are at 12:00 noon tomorrow. Lunch is waiting for you in the back of the room. Dinner tonight is at 6PM. You are free to stay in this space all night if you wish. Doors lock at 10PM so if you leave after that, you’ll need a buddy to let you back in.
  • “I know that most of you came with pre-formed teams. We’re going to do a quick idea pitch and team forming exercise over here for anyone who came solo and needs help hooking up on a team, otherwise, you’re free to figure that out on your own. Or come find me and I’ll help connect you to a team that is looking for talent.
  • “Let’s talk about judging criteria and demos tomorrow.
  • “The judging criteria are…(explain the judging criteria you chose)
  • “Demos tomorrow will be 3 minutes each, followed by 3 minutes of questions from the judges. We’re going to do it science-fair style, but on the mic. You will present at your workstations, but to the entire room on the microphone. The judges will walk from table to table. You are free to use any visuals you want but I suggest going light on the slides, if at all, and focusing more on demonstrating your solution.
  • “After the demos, the judges will deliberate, pick some winners, hand out prizes and share which teams they’re interested in continuing to work with post event and how that will work.
  • “Tomorrow, breakfast is at 8:30AM. Lunch will be ready to eat at 11 so you can eat while watching the other presentations.
  • “Some other housekeeping items:
  • “Wifi password is on the screen
  • “Restrooms are just down the hall to the right.
  • “We have a table up here with heaps of supplies available for you.
  • “We have a Slack channel going. Look for an invitation in your inbox.
  • “There are two other organizers besides me in the room that you can ask for help — NAME and NAME.
  • “We have three people from COMPANY here that you can tap for technical help. (list their names and expertise or have them introduce themselves)
  • “Any questions at all?
  • “Ok good luck, grab lunch, and have fun! The time starts now!

For the start of the demos on day 2:

  • “Kick it off with energy. WOW! I’m so excited to start these demos. I’ve seen some really cool stuff over the last 24 hours.
  • “For those of you just joining to watch, let me explain what’s happened over the last 24 hours. We’ve got 120 people here. A mix of engineers, developers, designers, students — all here to solve the challenge: (recite the challenge).
  • “You’re about to hear 24 teams present what they’ve come up with. Teams will have 3 minutes to give a demo. Then the judges — who I’ll introduce in a moment — will have 3 minutes for questions. After demos, we’ll hand out some prizes and select which teams will have an opportunity to continue working with (COMPANY) after this event is over.
  • “Teams — the pitch order is on the screen and in the Slack channel.
  • Introduce judges
  • Go over judging criteria
  • Awesomeness (Wow factor. Did you build something no one thought was possible in the scope of a weekend? Did you use techniques that are abnormal, often impractical, and weirdly elegant?)
  • Design (Is it easy to understand? Is it easy to use? Is it creative?)
  • Functionality (Does it solve the challenge? Does it work?)
  • Prep the judges. Tell them not to judge these like a startup. You can certainly ask about what’s on your mind from a business perspective (like scalability), but please focus on design, functionality, creativity, and awesomeness. Ask questions, but also give feedback. Then tell the audience that they don’t have to answer something a judge says that doesn’t have a question mark at the end, just thank them for the feedback. “Use the time wisely, give succinct answers, and try to get as many questions asked from them as possible.
  • “Any questions?
  • “First team, are you ready?

Make the Agenda Simple

People don’t come to hackathons to listen to people talk. Our approach to facilitation focuses on three things:

  1. Creating excitement and injecting energy into the room
  2. Relaying the essential information that teams need to know about the challenge and the resources available to them
  3. Keeping it short so teams have more time to hack

Our recommended event agenda is structured similarly:


Day 1:

  • 11:30 AM — Doors open
  • 12:00 — Kickoff
  • 12:30 — Start hacking. Lunch served.
  • 1:00 — Optional workshop in a side room.
  • 6:00 — Dinner served.
  • 11:00+ — Stay and hack as late as you want.

Day 2:

  • 8:30 AM — Breakfast served. Keep hacking.
  • 11:30 — Lunch served.
  • 12:00 — Demos.
  • 2:00 — Winners announced
  • 3:00 — End

To understand the smaller (but just as important) details that happen during the rest of the event, read through our Hackathon Run of Show Template or…

Download our Corporate Hackathon Quickstart Guide, packed full of the tools and templates we use.

If you need help planning, getting the word out, and executing your hackathon, contact us at Your Ideas Are Terrible. We’ll help you run your corporate hackathon like a well-oiled machine.

Originally published at Your Ideas Are Terrible.

Your Ideas Are Terrible

Shane Reiser

Written by

Partner at Your Ideas Are Terrible, Director of The Bridge Atlanta, President @startupgenome

Your Ideas Are Terrible

A plain-English look at corporate innovation

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