The power of the hackathon begins way before launch day.
You might not think so, but you can affect a candidate’s chance of success in lots of ways, and it all starts from your first call to submissions.
Think of all the touchpoints in the hackathon journey, and what candidates are required to do to go on to the next phase.
First, there’s the call to submissions itself. Then, the registration form (and its inclusivity).
Once the participants sign up, ease of communication can make a significant difference in how well they can prepare themselves, build teams, and interact with mentors.
Then there’s the build-up leading to the event, the scoring and review process, all the way to the final winner announcements.
Each of these stages provides opportunities for hackathon organisers to set participants up for success. Let’s look at how.
The people you’re hoping to attract should lead every aspect of your hackathon. That means from the call to submission all the way to the scoring process, it’s important you keep their strengths and weaknesses at the forefront of your planning process.
Let’s say you’re hoping to attract graduate developers and designers to your next hackathon. That demographic will inform many choices you’ll make, right down to the tone and language of your registration forms.
And it will differ if you’re trying to attract industry-leading peers.
Keep your target audience in mind during every phase of organising your hackathon so you can serve them as best you can, tailor your messaging toward them and ultimately, aid them in their success.
Mentors play an incredibly vital role in a hackathon.
Find and recruit top-quality, multi-disciplinary mentors who can help the participants solve issues in the most productive ways.
Usually, each mentor will be available for multiple teams and will hear a huge variety of ideas.
On Eventornado, participants can “drop” mentors into team chats. When mentors are active and lively in the channels, the enthusiasm spreads onto the participants and chat workspaces start booming. It’s a great way to keep everyone engaged as they bounce ideas off each other in a fast-paced and friendly space.
That means a great mentor is one that has an open mind, challenges teams to think innovatively and bring out the best in them, and is able to do so with a calm and encouraging approach.
Some teams will come up with a winning idea early on, whereas others might not get there as fast, or may fixate on less-important aspects of the project for longer than necessary.
It’s the mentor’s job to help teams keep a steady head, and help move ideas along.
Go back to your registration process and consider how you can help participants put their best foot forward before the hackathon has even begun.
When registration opens and participants submit their ideas, you can give them the opportunity to fine-tune and edit their submissions before the final closing date.
On Eventornado, organisers can keep participants engaged throughout the application by asking for more information or additions to the submissions.
This way, participants don’t need to submit new forms or ideas, and instead can simply add to their submission as and when they please—or if the organiser requests more information.
There’s no need to enter their details again or create new applications, which lets the application grow over a period of time.
One of our founders here at Eventornado, Martin Henk knows how important it is to keep application forms short, sweet and to the point to keep participants engaged and excited.
“By allowing the form to grow over time, we can keep the initial form shorter and less intimidating”, he explains. “Organisers can ask a few questions in the beginning, and then open up new fields later on in the process”.
Martin explains that there are a few questions that wouldn’t even make sense if hackathon organisers asked them too early in the application.
He breaks it down for us: “Asking for a solution video, or a presentation, for example, just wouldn’t make sense at the beginning because the participants won’t have those before the hack—all they might have is a vague idea”.
That’s why within the platform, participants can come in and out of their application at certain points and gradually add to their submissions. Everything stays neat and tidy, collected in the same centralised place.
Depending on how participants for your hackathon submit ideas and form teams, it’s important to have open lines of communication every step of the way.
Before our customers created and organised their hackathons on the Eventornado platform, most of them used Slack.
While Slack is a great tool for collaborative working (especially for remote workers), not every collaboration is made equal.
Hundreds (or sometimes thousands) or people messaging on various Slack channels with their submission ideas, questions or queries can get real messy, real fast.
Participants must create a new account for every hackathon workspace and fill out a new profile each time they sign up to a hackathon. It’s also down to the organisers to manually set up both the workspace and all the channels—which the participants then need to search for in order to create a chat for their team.
On Eventornado, participants are instantly added into the chat channels as soon as they sign up to the hackathon. What’s more, their chat profile is automatically filled out for them based on the details they submitted in their registration form. It’s faster, more convenient, and entrants don’t need to fiddle around a workspace trying to find the right channel to enter.
That’s a lot of messaging, a lot of spam, and a ton of confusion.
Communication is one of the most important aspects of a hackathon.
Martin explains how: “The buzzing energy and exhilarating chaos we all associate with hackathons is actually really hard to replicate.”
Beyond the chaos, “there’s all kinds of interesting people, crazy ideas and chance encounters—and it can be electrifying if it gets going, but it’s a lot harder to achieve that in an online event”.
That’s why we’ve taken communication seriously within the platform. Though we can’t fully replace that community-centred energy people expect from a hackathon, we can certainly provide the best tools and encourage that irreplaceable human connection through active chats and video sessions.
For us, it’s all about making it as easy as possible for participants to join the conversation—whether it’s with each other, the organisers and mentors.
On Eventornado, participants can share their ideas with one another when they’re still in the planning phase. That open communication makes it easy to bounce off each other’s creativity, have fun with like-minded people and discuss things they care about.
But as easy as it is to find chance encounters and meet other entrepreneurs in a fun and active way, communication on Eventornado isn’t just about mingling.
The free-flowing nature of the active chats mean it’s ridiculously easy for participants to reach out to organisers and mentors as and when they need to, and it’s just as easy for organisers to request feedback on how they could do better.
Organisers can quickly answer any pressing questions and it\'s all from within the same space. There’s no need for anyone to download a chat platform or sign up to other services—every single tool you need for fast, seamless communication, neat and available in one easy-to-use platform.
The platform streamlines the entire chat workspace area—profiles are pre-filled based on their registration info, and participants are automatically added to their relevant channels.
There are several ways hackathon organiser score, judge and select winners—some build criteria based on specific metrics and others ask teams to present their demos to their peers.
Whatever method you use for selecting winners, it’s crucial you do so in a way that is fair and gives every participant their best chance. One way to do that?
By having a smarter review process that protects the participants and prevents reviews from influencing other scores.
On a high-powered events management platform like Eventornado, reviewers are assigned groups of ideas to evaluate in just a few clicks. There’s no need for giant spreadsheets with 15 admins accessing it all at the same time. There’s no table of scores visible to everyone or comments left for the next reviewer to see.
The best thing about it is how easy it is for evaluators. Most of the time, reviewers are volunteers who have put time aside from their busy lives to review submissions for free.
When submissions are ready, evaluators simply receive an email that clearly shows which projects they need to review. There’s no need to log in or enter any details as the platform automatically authenticates them.
Rather than figuring out how to access a page, or create an account, they can start reviewing in seconds.
Every idea is assigned to a reviewer to evaluate, score and submit back into the platform for the organiser to collect.
If you look at history, innovation does not come just from giving people incentives; it comes from creating environments where their ideas can connect - American author, Steven Johnson
A great experience for participants means a great hackathon, and we’ve built that into the entire process within the Eventornado platform.
Do you have a hackathon coming up? Request a free demo of the platform or schedule a chat with us to learn more about how you can streamline your event and give participants the best chance of success right from the start.
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