What are the steps involved in hosting a virtual hackathon?
1. Determine a goal:
The first step is arranging a virtual hackathon and determining your goal. Why are you doing this virtual hackathon? What can you gain from this? Is it a product? Is it a marketing campaign? Multi-industry solutions to city improvement allow these goals to guide the rest of your virtual hackathon planning, including your theme.
2. Decide on a topic.
Themes are considered essential for attracting teams, sponsors, and partners to your virtual hackathon—they represent the story you tell the world through your event. Do remember what stories resonate with your specific audience while holding your overall hackathon aim in mind.
3. Determine the other W’s: who, what, where, and when.
There are four additional W’s for any story: who, what, where, and when. Make sure to cover these essentials as a part of the Virtual Hackathon.
Who: Decide on your target participants, virtual hackathon judges, and guest speakers. To maximize appeal to your target audience, be judicious while selecting your judge or speaker at your hackathon.
Choose the prizes and incentives that will be given to the winners of the virtual hackathon.
Where: Because it is a virtual hackathon that will be held online, your “where” will mostly concern the selection of a virtual event platform that will fulfill your demands as well as the needs of your participants.
When: Select a date for your event. Avoid major holidays in countries or locations where you have significant communities and/or colleagues who are vital to the event’s organization. Remember to account for time zones as you plan.
4. Disseminate the word.
You are hosting an incredible hackathon, an event that is sure to deliver great results and inspire your entire industry! However, this cannot happen if no one is aware of it, so planning and organizing promotional activities are very important. Not surprisingly, especially when it comes to a virtual hackathon, online event promotion channels are the most effective way to spread the word and generate buzz.
Be your own champion by publishing the virtual hackathon on your website and through network marketing. Social media, participating in relevant online groups, and collaborating with influencers are great ways to promote your virtual hackathon.
5. Keep records of registration information
Facilitating registration and check-in is critical to the success of any event, and since a virtual hackathon has a significantly higher turnout than an in-person hackathon, it’s essential. Exact registration dates and participation limits are also helpful in planning your virtual hackathon and creating urgency that you can use to market it.
6. Find time for enjoyable activities
We all know that online communication, even in a live video chat, is not the same as a personal conversation. That’s why it’s important to provide participants in a virtual hackathon with pleasant and random opportunities for interaction. Playing is a great method; quizzes and other activities can be presented in a fun, game-like way to connect and enhance the entire virtual hackathon experience for participants
7. Make it happen!: Host a virtual hackathon
It’s a big day! Your virtual hackathon is officially live. Hackathons are intentionally unstructured in many ways, including how teams actually work together, what participants work on, etc. However, some structure is needed. A typical virtual hackathon looks like this:
- Defining the challenge or problem to be solved
- Working hours
- Groups present their work
- Prizes will be awarded
8. Don’t forget at the end of the event
You and your colleagues should reflect on the event and summarize your views and observations. Feedback is also important. Sending a survey to virtual hackathon participants or even casually asking about their experiences can provide important insights and advice for next time.
What are the pros and cons of a virtual hackathon?
- The ability to organize an event for 500 people in less than a week is the most obvious advantage of an online hackathon.
There are currently materials available online to do this, including all the criteria and a list of tools. One example is the Airmeet community, which has made its data freely available to anyone. While an online event with 500 people might not seem that grand, executing it in “real” life would require an insane amount of time and resources. An offline hackathon with up to 200 participants is still manageable, but something else can make it all fall apart.
- There are no geographical restrictions on participants, mentors, or even the organizing team (unless you ask them to).
Although international mentors are always present at Airmeet, there is also the issue of cost (for the organizing team) and availability of mentors to fully commit to a “working” weekend away from home.
- The logistical costs associated with organizing and delivering the event are low.
There is no need to reserve seats, organize catering, buy plane tickets, book mentor accommodation, all printed materials can be omitted, etc., which can save a lot of money.
While there will still be some marketing costs, such as advertising or using online tools, they will likely be a fraction of what an offline event would cost.
- When it comes to online tools, technology is on our side.
There are many great tools available to make an online hackathon an enjoyable experience. From startup webinars, jobs, and calling tools to whiteboards, roadmaps, planning tools, and more
- No dress code, no venue opening or closing hours, and more flexibility for both organizers and attendees
To adapt to a new environment, we gradually change our habits. As interpersonal connections appear on screens, many traditional social behaviors change, meaning less concern with appearances and more attention to the actual work.
- Even when the whole world is on the other side of the screen, being alone in a room can be lonely at times.
People at Startup Weekend have fun; they engage with each other not only in their teams but also as a community, sharing ideas and impressions and helping each other.
- Due to changing circumstances, the first round of pitching is no longer possible, and team building can quickly turn into chaos.
While it’s possible to simulate a “real” event by hosting early online presentations, it’s a good idea to gather ideas ahead of time and give attendees time to review them at least hours, if not days, before the actual grand opening.
- When it comes to social interaction, group dynamics are much more difficult to monitor or control in an online context.
Think of a room with 500 people who need to communicate with each other to form a team and collaborate. Of course, there are rules that dictate how to do this; the difficulty is that everyone is blinded.
- The pitches can be quite impersonal, the Q&A section of the jury is likely to miss out, and not all teams get the spotlight.
Teams are encouraged to send video calls instead of traditional resolutions on the last day to avoid technical issues during the final closing webinar and speed up the process as much as possible. Since the online hackathon usually has several teams working during the weekend, only some of them are broadcast.
Why should you host a virtual hackathon?
Every hackathon is an opportunity to create new solutions to problems and spark creativity. They can also be used to promote the community, find new talent, or just for fun. However, holding a hackathon offers several additional benefits in practice.
1. It is not expensive
As online events, virtual hackathons are significantly cheaper than traditional hackathons held in a real environment. Although you need to ensure the integrity and support of your digital infrastructure, investing in a reliable virtual event platform to host a virtual hackathon is still cheaper than a real event.
2. It is environmentally friendly
Virtual hackathon participants do not need to travel by plane, train, or car, which significantly reduces the carbon footprint of an in-person hackathon.
3. It can promote diversity
Participants can be located anywhere because virtual hackathons are online and not limited by geographic or physical location. This means that significantly more people can participate and bring perspectives, experiences, and brainpower from around the world. Additionally, by inviting a culturally diverse group of participants, you also embrace different ways of thinking that are critical to the hackathon concept itself.
4. It allows for different work styles and preferences
Everyone has their favorite way of working. Claire enjoys 80s favorites while she works, while Jamie insists on complete silence. Anything that helps someone do their best can be much more easily incorporated into a virtual hackathon.
5. It doesn’t spread those nasty viruses
Although physical events have once again entered the public consciousness, COVID-19 still exists and can be easily transmitted from person to person. Other infections, such as colds and flu, can do the same. Because virtual hackathons are completely online, they reduce the risk of illness often associated with large gatherings.
6. It can bring your company’s employees together
Virtual hackathons are also a great internal tool, especially when working remotely. Employees can participate in an online hackathon with colleagues from any city or country, taking communication and collaboration to a new level.
Things to avoid when hosting a hackathon
Organizing a hackathon is a challenging task. As it is, the chances of making mistakes are high. Here are three mistakes you need to avoid when organizing a hackathon.
Miscommunication in your promotion
From the beginning, any promotional posts about the hackathon must be clear and concise. If the hackathon’s ad or newsletter is not clear, it will put off your target audience, bringing down the number of participants.
The easiest way to avoid such a situation is to have a clear goal before communications begin.
Not choosing the right platform
As said before, organizing a hackathon is a challenging task. The hackathon platform you choose for your event can make or break it. Choose a platform that works well for your business and that participants can easily understand and use.
Select a platform that offers tools for collaboration among participants, easy access to attendees’ information, and the ability to assign scores for the organizers.
No incentives or prizes for participants
A hackathon is a competition, and the winning team or person is rightly entitled to an award that is decided in advance. However, what about the other participants? Lack of recognition can turn things sour among the attendees and may cause participation to drop the next time you organize an event.
To avoid this scenario, deciding on a participation prize or a goody bag is ideal. The goodies could be your organization’s promotional items or limited access to your software’s full features. Remember to communicate the same when you promote your hackathon to draw more people.
What are good ideas for a virtual hackathon?
Do the exercise: Technology is one of the biggest features of virtual hackathons. Faulty technology can put a damper on your event. Hackathon participants have limited time, and technical issues can take time to resolve. To eliminate possible inconveniences and disappointments, you can go through a dress test before the event.
To conduct a virtual hackathon trial, give teams access to the software used during the event in advance and ask participants to test the technology and validate its functionality. You must keep the IT team on standby to assist participants via live chat and ensure that all participants receive contact information for the support team.
You can also add buffer time to your schedule in case of breakdowns. For example, you can add an hour between the end of office hours and the start of presentations for online community activities if someone on your team needs extra work time due to an error.
Choose Team Names: A successful hackathon is based on strong teamwork. One of the foundations of a strong team is its name. At the beginning of the event, you can ask each team to do a quick icebreaker and then choose a name. Here is a list of team name ideas.
Offer a food stipend: Hackathons are run with a marathon mentality where participants stop for nothing, including food. You can often spot a brave hackathon competitor holding a pepperoni slice in one hand and coding or writing with the other. Preparing food can break the momentum of participants, and removing food altogether can detract from the experience. You may not be able to coordinate pizza delivery to every attendee’s home, but you can offer a food stipend so registrants can order takeout as little as possible without disrupting workflow. You can offer credits to virtual attendees on platforms like GrubHub, UberEats, and DoorDash so guests can order brain fuel.
Send a goody bag: Attendees can’t attend the event just for the drink, but goodies are definitely a plus. Just because your attendees can’t pick up the treats in person doesn’t mean you have to forget the gifts. You can send promotional giveaways before the event to enhance the attendee experience.
Good bag ideas:
- Backpacks or bags
- Blue-light glasses
- Memory stick
- Portable charger
- Mugs and/or mug warmers
This gesture can give your event an organic boost, as recipients can post pictures of the trip on social media when the package arrives. If your guest list is too large to send gifts directly to attendees, consider creating a digital swag bag. Instead of sending physical items, you can send electronic gifts via email.
Digital Bag Ideas: Timed subscriptions to services like Audible, Pandora, or
Access to digital media such as websites or industry magazines
Cloud storage for phones and desktop wallpapers, Credit for downloading apps, video games, or music on sites like iTunes and Steam
If you want to combine digital and personal gift concepts, you can create an online store for your event and reserve a certain number of credits for each participant to use for promotional items. This approach is attractive because participants can choose the gifts they like, adding personalization and autonomy to the free gift.
While virtual hackathons may not offer the exact same experience as in-person hackathons, online versions of these events still encourage radical innovation, creativity, work ethic, and collaboration.
The trick to evaluating the success of digital hackathons and all online events is not to endlessly compare the event to its physical counterpart, but rather to use and evaluate the benefits of the online platform.
With careful planning and an online engagement strategy, you can make your online event a success.
Types of virtual hackathons
Virtual hackathons come in many forms, from theme-based to technology-focused to open innovation. Each type of hackathon has its own unique challenges and opportunities for different audiences and goals. To ensure a successful hackathon, it’s important to pick a format and topic that align with your audience’s interests and goals. In the next few sections, we’ll dive into the different types of hackathons to help you decide which format is best for your event.
A theme-based hackathon focuses on a specific topic or industry and encourages participants to come up with innovative solutions in that specific context. This type of hackathon provides participants with a structured space to solve a specific problem and encourages them to come up with high-quality and relevant solutions that will have a real impact. Some great examples of themed hackathons include Corporate Hackathons Creating a new startup Developing new disaster management strategies and Planning a launch campaign.
The combination of thematic and technological hackathons can provide an even more captivating experience. Subject matter experts are able to identify issues in their area of expertise and transform them into viable technological projects, while participants are able to apply their knowledge and gain insight into the hackathon’s topic. This can be especially beneficial for internal hackathons that promote innovation and collaboration within an organization.
Technology-focused hackathons involve using specific programming languages, APIs, or frameworks to implement novel and innovative concepts in software. Technical support is provided to participants to help them overcome obstacles and create more effective solutions. Examples of technology-focused hackathons include examining the potential of artificial intelligence and automation, constructing 3D simulation systems, and creating user-friendly tools for web development.
The drone-powered AI prototype is a prime example of the power of technological innovation. It has demonstrated great potential and is constantly evolving for better use.
Open Innovation Events
At open innovation events, you can showcase your technical skills and take part in cutting-edge projects that will shape the future of technology. These events invite you to explore any idea or project, stimulating creativity and collaboration across different disciplines. By leveraging external resources and ideas, such as those from hackathon sponsors, you can foster innovation and solve difficult problems. Existing open innovation projects include the “Remote Access to Resources” project, which allows you to access your digital data from anywhere. The “Additional Resources Locator” project exposes resources related to your digital identifiers. These events are a great resource for project ideas.
By embracing the ethos of open innovation, hackathons can uncover new ideas and innovative solutions that push the limits of what is possible, provide participants with the opportunity to explore any project at any time, and ignite the creativity that leads to real innovation.
4 Basic Needs of Virtual Hackathons
Hackathons are designed for a wide range of people with different skills and interests. Many hackathons focus on software development, but the approaches outlined in these guides can be applied to any industry. Here are four things to think about when you’re planning a hackathon and your target audience:
In order to maximize the volume of participants, it is important to consider the number of teams and projects involved. If the goal is to create a wide variety of products, it is recommended to include a large number of hackers. However, this may come with certain drawbacks, such as increased rewards, a greater rating burden, and the need to monitor and manage the participants.
To ensure the quality of the projects, it is beneficial to focus on fewer contributors with specific skills, as this will provide a smaller but more diverse pool of talent. This approach also allows for the tracking and management of pirates and teams.
- Objectives and Results
Before embarking on your virtual hackathon journey, it’s a good idea to consider your desired objectives and outcomes. In a nutshell, what do you hope to accomplish with this event? Hackathons are time-consuming and require a lot of effort and energy from your organization to ensure that they run smoothly. So, before you begin marketing your event, begin with the ideal outcome and work your way back.
Diversity If you want your hacker group to develop new ideas and projects, consider diversity. Different backgrounds, genders, and ideological perspectives can bring different skills and approaches to the table. This type of diversity should be fostered and supported through targeted promotions and rewards.
Four Tips on How to Win a Hackathon
If you want to win your next hackathon, here are four tips to help you do it:
- Talk about the final application as well as how it wasdeveloped.- It’s important to explain both the final application you’re submitting and how you developed it. You’ll need to explain the problem you’re trying to solve and what technologies you used to solve it. Writing a detailed report is a great way to do this. Write about what your project was, what tools you used, and how you solved the problem. Don’t forget to explain the technical specifics of your solution and point out any unique or innovative elements that make your project stand out from other submissions.
- Use visuals: Create a demo video or images that explain the application. When presenting your project to judges and other participants at a virtual hackathon, it is a great idea to include a video or images explaining the application. This will help the judges and other participants understand your solution better and increase your chances of winning the hackathon. Step through your solution step by step, emphasizing the features of your solution that make it stand out
Don’t get lost in the details. Remember that you must first hook the judges with a big picture and then go into more details, as judges would like to know more. For example, if you have created a web application, create a demo video that explains the different features of the project. Including screenshots or other images highlighting specific aspects of your project is also highly recommended.
Presentation Includes both visuals and a short explanation of your solution in your presentation. This will help you explain the details of your solution more clearly and help judges evaluate your submission more easily.
- Utilize the prescribed technology. In virtual hackathons, you may be asked to use a particular technology, framework, or programming language that you are required to use. For example, in our case, the prescribed technology is five. The goal is to create something truly amazing on top of that technology. So, how can you use the prescribed technology to your advantage? The first step is to make sure you are using the right technology for your project. This means that you are taking advantage of every feature and capability that the technology has to create a great application
For example, if you use Five’s SQL editor, you can create high-quality applications. The second step is to look into all of the resources and documentation that are available. This will give you a better understanding of how to use the prescribed technology and how you can build your solution with it. If you run into any challenges or obstacles along the way, don’t hesitate to reach out to other participants or ask for help from mentors.
- Follow the hackathon guidelines. This might seem like a no-brainer, but following the hackathon submission guidelines is essential for winning a hackathon. It is essential to follow the guidelines of the hackathon organizer when you submit your project. After all, the answer to the question, “How do I enter a hackathon?” is simple: make a good submission!
How do you optimize your marketing strategy and reach your intended audience?
Create an event page or website
It is essential to create a website or event page that is both clear and informative. This page should provide information about the event, such as details of the event, speakers, judging, and prizes. Additionally, it should include a clear call-to-action and a way for participants to register. This does not have to be complicated and could be as simple as a blog post containing an email sign-up form. This will save time by eliminating the need to manually send out information one at a time.
SEO-friendly and marketable content
It should be created for visual marketing material. Keywords such as “hackthon”, “virtual”, “digital”, “event”, “network”, “professional”, “industry”, “workshop”, “developer tutorials”, “software”, “bitcoin”, and “blockchain” should be used.
Use email and newsletters.
You can reach people from all over the web, but email is a powerful tool. Market your event to your existing users and mailing list if you already have one. If you’re new to email marketing, collect emails while registration is taking place and create an email newsletter that highlights the key event information, prizes, and perks to boost participant turnover. Keep your audience engaged throughout your event with regular email marketing workshops, tutorials, and deadlines, as well as other key information.
Use social media platforms and paid ads.
You don’t have to opt for paid ads, but they are a great way to reach your target audience. Use social media channels and websites with user bases that include a large portion of your target audience (developers, designers, etc.). Additionally, make sure that your marketing materials are visually appealing and easy to read. Too much written or visual information will not help you reach your target audience and will lead to poor participant turnover.
Use event sponsors, event speakers, and event judges to promote your event.
If you have sponsors or co-sponsors for your event, they will likely have budgets set aside for event marketing. It’s often better to use two hands than one. If you have speakers and judges for your event, use their followers, influence, and social media presence to promote your event, or at least their part in it. This will help you gain further outreach and reach your target demographic.
Create referral schemes.
Use word of mouth to promote your event. Word of mouth is one of the oldest and most effective forms of marketing. Encourage your hackers to share your event with their friends and get them to sign up. You can do this via a referral program or even encourage professionals to register with their team of colleagues.
Create press releases, reach out to relevant news websites, or outsource
Don’t wait for people to find your event on their own. And don’t expect news outlets to find it on their own. Make sure you prepare a press release and get in touch with relevant websites and journalists. Make sure you clearly explain all the details and include branding and marketing assets such as logos, banners, and #hashtags if needed.
Keep posting about your event.
Continue to post about your event. Finally, be consistent. Don’t repeat the same information five times. Stick to the plan and make sure you provide clear, easy-to-understand instructions on how to participate. Use #hashtags When posting online, make sure to use #hashtags consistently. These are also great for giving the impression that others are talking about your event. It’s fun and exciting for attendees!
A virtual hackathon is a multidimensional process that requires careful organization, effective marketing, and a basic understanding of the advantages and disadvantages. The measures outlined in the beginning are critical for running a successful virtual hackathon. Every component must be studied carefully, from establishing clear objectives and subjects to selecting the appropriate attendees, platforms, and dates. There are numerous advantages to having a virtual hackathon. It allows you to be more accessible, no matter where you are in the world. As a result, it is less expensive and more environmentally friendly. It also encourages variety by allowing people from all over the world to share their ideas and experiences. Virtual hackathons can provide flexibility by allowing you to accommodate various work styles and preferences. This minimizes the likelihood of being ill, which is critical in today’s world. It also enables you to connect with remote workers and foster internal collaboration.
There are some downsides to virtual hackathons. A virtual hackathon can result from a lack of face-to-face interaction. In an online context, it might be tough to keep track of team-building and team dynamics. Personal pitches and limited question-and-answer sessions can be a downside. You may also miss out on traditional social events like networking and parties. The best way to win a virtual hackathon is to make sure your submissions cover both the end-user application and the development process. Use visual aids like demo videos and images to show off your projects. Utilize the prescribed technology as much as possible. Follow the submission guidelines to maximize your chances of winning.
If you’re planning an event, you’ll need to make sure you have a good plan for marketing. That means creating a page or website will be easy to navigate, using content that’s optimized for search engines, emailing, and taking advantage of social media. You can also use paid advertising to target specific demographics.
To get more people interested in attending, you should involve sponsors, speakers, and judges. Also, you can use referral schemes and press releases to get your event out there. Posting regularly and using hashtags is key to keeping people interested and engaged. Overall, if you follow the procedures and employ the proper marketing methods, you can conduct a fantastic virtual hackathon, encourage creativity, and address real-world problems.
When organizing a technology-focused hackathon, it’s important to carefully select a specific technology, provide participants with tools and documentation, and provide technical assistance to help participants overcome obstacles.
To successfully market your virtual hackathon, you should create an event page or website, use SEO-friendly content, use email marketing and newsletters, engage with social media platforms, use event sponsors and speakers, develop referral systems, and consider contacting news sites and journalists.
To improve their chances of winning, participants should focus on providing clear explanations of their final application and development process, use visual aids such as demonstration videos and images, utilize the assigned technology, and ensure that their participation is relevant to the hackathon and instructions.