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A hackathon is a time-bound competition where teams or individuals try to find solutions to technology-related situations or problems. The event centers on one idea, theme, or problem, and participants try to develop and present a solution or product as a working prototype. Then, a panel of experts judges the solution to declare a winner based on specific parameters.
Initially, hackathons were conducted onsite and focused only on coders. However, with changing times, hackathons have gone virtual, increasing their accessibility and popularity. These events now focus on different issues and use cases related to technologies or programming languages.
This blog elaborates on the need and benefit of virtual hackathons and how to conduct one for your organization.
Depending on the objectives, you can organize a hackathon internally or keep it open to the public.
A company conducts an internal hackathon for its employees. It aims to crowdsource ideas, promote collaboration, and increase employee engagement. Companies can involve employees from different backgrounds and give them the freedom to develop innovative ideas and pitch them to senior management.
External hackathons are open to the public. Anybody, both within and outside the organization, can participate. The participants are usually attracted by the theme and the prize on offer. Virtual external hackathons allow companies to crowdsource ideas from across the world.
There are several advantages of organizing a virtual hackathon, some of which are:
Onsite hackathons are costly. The cost ranges from renting a place for the event to taking care of participants’ needs. There is also the cost of hiring extra staff to organize and run the event efficiently.
A virtual hackathon allows most people to participate from their homes, eliminating the need to rent space and arrange food and accommodation. You may need to hire extra staff to monitor the participants, but the number of temporary hires would still be less than onsite hackathons. This makes virtual hackathons economical.
Physical hackathons limit participation to those near the venue or who can afford to travel. This means contestants are primarily local, and you can miss out on great talent. With virtual hackathons, people from all over the world can join in. Only a stable internet connection and a device to work on are needed. With people joining from all over the world, you increase the chances of coming up with a good solution.
Everybody has different conditions under which they work better. For example, some may work best with music or while listening to a podcast. On the other hand, some might prefer working from the comfort of their bed over a chair and desk. Virtual hackathons allow each participant to work in conditions where they are most comfortable working without causing discomfort to others. This directly contributes to increased productivity and improved results.
The intensity of trying to find a solution in a set time frame breaks the monotony of day-to-day functions. Hackathons also encourage collaboration and creativity among the team members in a fun environment. This is especially true when members are connecting virtually. They will need to communicate and delegate tasks efficiently, which builds camaraderie.
Despite being virtual, organizing a hackathon can be a difficult task. Here are the three essentials to host a successful hackathon.
Be it an onsite or virtual hackathon; prizes are essential for boosting participation. Rewards can range from cash and gift cards to an internship with the organization or a permanent position. Awards can also depend on the target audience. For example, software licenses help attract tech professionals.
To host your hackathon, choose a platform with robust capabilities. It should have optimum features, the ability to handle the size of the event, and a platform for participants to engage with others. Also, the software provider should have excellent tech support in case of technical glitches.
A panel of qualified judges is necessary for the event’s credibility, as participants know they will be evaluated by experts in their field. Well-known judges will also attract top talents and help you boost your virtual hackathon's popularity.
After you have decided on the abovementioned, follow the steps to organize a successful event
Before organizing a hackathon, you must decide the reasons behind holding the event. What do you want out of it? Do you intend to use it as a marketing campaign? Are you looking to check the security features of your upcoming app/software? The hackathon idea you decide on will set the tone for the planning process. It will also help you attract the right audience.
Deciding the goal takes care of the “why” of your hackathon. But the other four: who, what, where and when, are also important. Here is everything you need to know about them:
You have decided on your virtual hackathon’s theme, prize, judges, and guest speaker. Now, it is essential to spread the word about the hackathon and generate a buzz around it to encourage your target audience to register for the event. Start promoting it on your site and social media pages and include it in your email marketing campaigns. Additionally, posting about it in relevant online communities is another excellent way to promote your hackathon.
Virtual hackathons tend to attract more participants than onsite ones, which makes it essential that the registration process is easy and streamlined. It would be best to clarify cutoff dates for registration and put a cap on the number of participants. All of this will help you manage the event effectively.
Online interactions are different from offline ones. This makes it vital for you to provide opportunities for participant engagement in a fun and casual way. You can incorporate trivia or meme contests for this. Such events will encourage connection and improve participants’ experience.
Post-event analysis is critical to capitalize on things that worked in your favor and find the things that didn’t. Ask participants to provide feedback through a survey form or informally ask them about their experience. This will help you get better insights for event hosting the next time.
Finally, remember to promote the success of your hackathon through post-event promotions. Share images and videos from the event with your key audiences via social media posts, newsletters, and blogs.
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.
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. You can also have a separate events page for FAQs that address common questions.
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 participants can easily understand and use it.
Select a platform that offers tools for collaboration among participants, easy access to attendees’ information, and the ability to assign scores for the organizers.
A hackathon is a competition, and the winning team/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.
Mercer | Mettl Online Hackathon platform is an all-in-one solution for organizing a hackathon. The end-to-end platform lets you seamlessly organize hackathons for hiring or engaging with your employees.
Apart from these features, you also get access to a 24×7 support team that helps ensure seamless execution, making your hackathon a success.
Whether you are looking for talented individuals to hire or want to generate ideas and engage your employees, hackathons are your finest bet. Organizing an event may sound difficult with the planning involved, but the rewards are just as high. It helps you engage the community, find talent, boost morale and create a buzz around your company.
A virtual hackathon is an online event where teams or individuals try to solve an issue or develop a new product/feature in a limited time. At the end of the allotted time, the participants are judged, and a winner is declared.
There are several steps involved in organizing a successful virtual hackathon. i) The first step is to decide on the event's goal and your target audience, ii) Once this is determined, you need to plan other things, such as selecting the platform to host your hackathon, the judges, guest speakers, prize money and the event dates, iii) Finally, promote your virtual hackathon through different channels to increase participation.
Hackathons usually act as meeting points for different groups of people, one of whom is recruiters. In addition, talent acquisition managers use hackathons as a scouting ground for talented people who can be great additions to their team. If you stand out among your peers or are part of a team that comes with a unique solution or wins the hackathon, your chances of landing a job are high.
There can be several reasons for organizing a hackathon, some of which are: i) Crowdsourcing ideas, ii) Creating goodwill around the brand, iii) Looking for new talent, iv) Accelerating product development.
Originally published December 14 2022, Updated December 14 2022
A hackathon or ideathon is an event where people with different skill sets come together to solve predefined challenges within a specified time frame. Ideathons and hackathons are increasingly being used for corporate branding, hiring at speed, innovating and engaging employees.