Happy participants are well informed and never thrown a curveball. Before diving too far into your hackathon website copy or marketing plans, document and finalize all of the core details of your hackathon. We suggest defining the below:
Purpose and goals.
It is vital that you establish the purpose of your hackathon and any goals you hope to accomplish. These goals usually match your internal goals and might help you get internal approvals to move forward. Here are some things to ask yourself and your team:
- Why is your organization holding this hackathon?
- What are the qualitative and quantitative goals you want to achieve?
- What does success look like for you?
Theme or inspiration.
Now that you know why you are hosting a hackathon (your goals), it is time to think about why developers would participate in your hackathon. Be sure to define what’s interesting about your hackathon from the participant’s perspective.
- Are they helping to solve a real-world problem?
- Will they get to play with new data or technology?
- Is the prize the ultimate reward?
The answers to these questions should be clear both to your team AND in the web copy you present on the challenge site. If you can’t explain it in two or three sentences – try again.
Outline who can participate and what you want them to submit during your hackathon. This should define your eligibility restrictions, any project requirements, and your submission requirements. Here are some things we consider:
- Who can participate? Are there any geographical restrictions on where you can send prizes or limits on where the required tools can be accessed from? Will there be age restrictions or occupation restrictions? Will you require teams or limit organizations from participating? For more information on eligibility requirements, check out our setting eligibility requirements article.
- What do they need to create? While building out the main requirement we tend to stick to the below outline while tying it into the above details:
- Build a [project] using [tool or api] that [theme statement].
Example: Build a web application using React that helps make education accessible.
- What do they need to submit? For submission requirements, we want to avoid requiring too much and instead use judging criteria to ensure all eligible projects are judged fairly. Here are some reasonable asks:
- URL to their working project
- URL and access to their github repository (public or private)
- 3-5 minute demonstration video
Be sure to build in adequate time for each stage of your hackathon. Here are some recommendations
- 6-8 week registration & submission period to allow enough time for marketing and for submitters to build their apps.
- 1-2 week judging period to allow for holidays and potential app testing or screening.
- 1-4 business days from when you have the winners chosen and your winner announcement to allow any PR or messaging to be built out.
Prizes & Incentives.
Be sure your prizes are fair for what you are asking of your participants. Your prizes don’t have to be dependent on your budget. Here are some things to consider
- More prizes are better. Post at least 4 prizes to give your participants a fair chance at the prize pool. Participants will look at the number of prizes to the number of participants to gauge the hackathon’s competition and their likelihood of winning.
- Money isn’t everything. Money is important, but be sure to also fill up your prizes with promotional materials or nonfinancial prizes. Think about new experiences you can provide your winners. This could include meetings with executives, mock interviews, training sessions and virtual credits.
- Everyone's a winner. Participation or eligible submission prizes help give back to participants that put in a solid effort but didn’t win.