10 Tips for a Successful Hackathon – (with infographic!)
There are a variety of metrics you can choose to determine whether you have a “successful” hackathon, for a lot of attendees focusing on the process, the creativity and the collaboration means that every experience is a success (and I agree!) Focusing on finishing a project and potentially winning prizes is a different kind of success. Real businesses have been launched from projects originally built at hackathon, and the environment is excellent for learning, practicing and and building your skills. Here are 10 Tips to help you have the best possible hackathon experience:
- Find your team ahead of time – If you and your team mates have some extra time to get to know each other and brainstorm together, that will save you a lot of time the day of the event.
- Brainstorm strategically – Mind maps are an excellent way to corral your ideas into potential projects, and if you keep your focus on one or two main problems you’d like to solve, you’re more likely to come up with a workable solution.
- Don’t get too grandiose – You have to have at least some part of the hack working when it comes time for presentation, so you don’t want to dream too big. This is one instance when a time restriction will help you if you let it. Stay focused on what you can actually achieve in the time you have.
- Make a plan – spend some front-loaded time making a plan. Sketching out what your goals are and how you think you’ll achieve them will give you guideposts along the way as your project develops.
- Be adaptable -But even if you have a plan, you can’t stay married to it. Be willing to pivot if the idea needs working over or if the tech capabilities aren’t what you expected as you go through trial and error.
- Be clear on who’s doing what – It’s helpful to for each person to be clear on what their task list is, but be willing to help each other out. You should all be working towards the same goal. Teamwork is the name of the game here.
- Communicate – If you need help, ask. If something isn’t clear, ask. Have an idea for a solution? Speak up. Have a concern about the solution being discussed? Share with the group. The team who communicates clearly will have a leg up on others who don’t.
- Don’t skimp on presenting – The best idea in the world won’t get any attention if no one understands what it is, what it does or who should care. Take some time to plan what you’ll say and how the demo will proceed. Even better, have a teammate who focuses on sharing & fine tuning the message & presentation.
- Have a workable demo – Only working demos are eligible for prizes, so if that’s a priority to you, make sure you have something that shows at least part of what your project is intended to do.
- Don’t forget to have fun! – Amid all the stress or pressure you might feel, don’t forget to have a great time. Yes, it would be awesome if something world-changing (and/or bank account changing) comes out of it, but you can’t get too wrapped up in the outcome. See the hackathon as an opportunity to collaborate, practice your skills and to connect with others who want to use technology to change the world!