Your Guide to Host a Successful Virtual Hackathon

Aditi Biswas
• July 25, 2021
Here is a short guide to host a successful virtual hackathon
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R

emember hackathons? You would see coders immersed in their problem-solving bubbles. You could almost guarantee crazy hours and sleepless nights. 

Ah, such good ol’ days. 

Unfortunately, the old days of developers huddling together in a room with a bunch of people are long gone. 

Now, hackathons happen, but it happens on virtual platforms like Airmeet.

And with massive strides being taken in Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality, Blockchain, and the Internet of Things, these are some of the core underpinnings that can drive Hackathons of 2021.

Table of Contents

To become successful in this world of virtual hackathons, it’s time to move beyond developers and include different functionalities across organizations. Besides ensuring a diverse participant pool, you can always use video conference tools and social lounges to collaborate and network in this online event.

These are some things that you need to plan ahead for a hackathon

Most importantly, have a set plan for the hackathon and the biggest challenges you are looking to solve. Include a format that:

  • Defines the goal and purpose of your online hackathon – What do you want to achieve from the hackathon – a product, a feature, a sense of the community, hiring, etc.
  • Use other teams to retain the fun element of a virtual hackathon
  • Schedule a time for presentations and discussions, including the time period for networking opportunities, and plan time.

When you get down to organizing a virtual hackathon, here’s what you should do,

Theme & brand building – Identify the purpose and challenge for the virtual hackathon. Keep the target audience in mind when you zero in on the theme for the event.

These days quite a few non-IT-based hackathons have made an appearance, and so depending on the end goal, list down possible themes and finalize one that works. 

Come up with a name for the event. Branding is quite crucial for any event, and a virtual hackathon is no exception to this. You can also plan team-based merchandise such as matching t-shirts to send out ahead of time for the attendees to wear during the event. You need to use the name across social media channels when promoting the event to establish the event and create hype around it.

Website/landing page – It is crucial to create a website, or just a landing page is covering all aspects of the virtual hackathon event. It should provide visitors with information about the theme, dates, schedule, judges, rules, and more. While you can share updates via social media, it is good to have the same mirrored on the website/landing page. Make sure to cover all aspects and any questions that people might have about the event.

Interactive and engaging sessions – Make it simple for attendees to find their way around the event. Schedule sessions across interactive locations like event booths and share details for the same ahead of time so they have time to prepare and choose the sessions that catch their attention. Choose an online platform like Airmeet that will help you with networking and virtual team management.

Stakeholders – Who are the stakeholders you are targeting for this particular hackathon event? Companies who might show interest and come forth to sponsor the events, partners who would provide tech support or other assistance that you might require for the duration of the event, and so on. Similarly, identify people who would be on the judging panel, helping you make the final decision on the winner.

The actual event and beyond – Work with an event management platform like Airmeet who understands the concept of hackathons and what it takes to host a virtual hackathon. Once that is clear, make a list of the activities lined up, the plan, schedule, and organize communication to the participants giving them the details and how to go about the event. Divide participants into individual teams and assign project managers for the event for easier collaboration.

It is also important to have prizes sorted for the event. They could be coupons/vouchers, an opportunity to attend a masterclass by an industry expert, or a vacation/gadget. 

Once the event is wrapped up, send out mailers thanking the participants, showcase photographs and highlights from the event, and special mentions (if any). This needs to be done on the event website and social media channels as well. 

Why should you host a virtual hackathon?

While there are challenges and drawbacks to a virtual event, the benefits outweigh them. The highlights of hosting a virtual hackathon event are,

Cost – The budget required to host a virtual hackathon event is far less when compared to the real physical event. While hosting a virtual includes cost towards building a digital infrastructure, tech resources, support staff, using a virtual hackathon platform like Airmeet is cost-effective.

Comfort – The hackathon might pique interest from people scattered across demographics, and therefore hosting a virtual event would work best. People can participate from the comfort of their homes, set up systems and other necessary material based on their preferences. With fewer distractions, there is bound to be an increase in overall productivity.

Diversity – Virtual events open doors to people from various walks of life to participate and experience the same. These virtual hackathons could have people from different functionalities participating and bringing varied thinking capabilities into the game.

This allows for different perspectives and creative thinking, which could boost the value of the hackathon. 

Team building – Since people from varied locations and backgrounds participate in these virtual hackathons, it is an excellent opportunity to help people understand teamwork and develop skills required to work as a team and not just as a lone ranger. This will be helpful in the long run, giving them an advantage when working in organizations with large teams. 

Hackathon Ideas for 2021

10 Interesting hackathon ideas for 2021

Edu-tech hackathon ideas

With the world closing down schools, colleges and universities, there has been an immense shift in how education is delivered. You can host ed-tech hackathons on,

  • Student learning experiences
  • Course and university finders
  • Project management for teachers/students
  • Document management for educational institutions
  • Tutoring aids

Healthcare hackathon ideas

There is a huge scope when it comes to technology and healthcare. Here are some ideas for your next virtual hackathon,

  • Data management in clinics and hospitals
  • Virtual health assistants (build the next Baymax of Big Hero 6. After all, it came from a hackathon idea)
  • GPS monitoring of ambulances
  • Medical emergency triage management
  • Health management in rural areas

Consumer-tech hackathon ideas

AI and machine learning come in handy when it comes to homes and will benefit larger communities. Here are some brilliant ideas for your next consumer tech hackathon,

  • Autonomous drones
  • IoT for homes
  • Automated workspaces

General hackathon ideas

While every hackathon comes with its niches and sub-categories, here are some generic ideas for your next hackathon:

  • Use of AI in hiring/recruitment
  • Chatbots for employee management
  • Apps that fine-tune your music recordings
  • Automating agriculture
  • Energy-saving ideas
  • AR/VR in retail
  • Subscription management solutions

The ideas mentioned above will surely set you in the right direction for the online hackathon. While a traditional physical hackathon has always been about showcasing talent, virtual hackathons have brought in a new angle of ‘enriching others.’ Through virtual hackathons, you can enable a global talent pool as participants and create meaningful and more thought-out projects. 

To know more about virtual hackathons and how it can help with your hack into your bright future, talk to our expert today. Till then, here’s wishing you a happy virtual hackathon hosting!

FAQs on virtual hackathons

A hackathon is a competitive event designed for developers and other functionalities to collaborate and create a solution for a problem or a set of problems. When this in person event is held online, it’s called an online hackathon.

To begin with, devise a plan for the event, whether it will be an internal hackathon or an external one. Next, choose the end objective of the event, for example, if you want to develop a user interface of a product or improve the user experience of a feature.  Once you have the end goal, it is time to figure out things like which programming languages the participants can use, time period, code of conduct, and promotional opportunities. Do include networking and special projects when planning for the online hackathon. 

Traditional hackathons or in person hackathon was previously run at different venues. Since this is an online event, you can use tools like Airmeet to conduct your event. Airmeet gives hackathon participants common spaces to collaborate and discuss in the form of social lounges. You can also use the chat and Q&A as a hackathon channel for communications. Moreover, Airmeet lets you host hackathons for up to 100k participants. 

In virtual events, attendees can participate from anywhere besides getting the opportunity to work with fellow peers from around the world. Virtual hackathons also give better access to industry mentors and thought leaders than traditional hackathons. 

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