Haptik & TLabs recently organised India’s first ever chat bot hackathon aka #botathon and sharing a few tips from my experience that might come handy to you organise one better.

Ideally you should start working on a hackathon 2 months prior to the date if not at least 5–6 weeks prior is a must. One of the most important aspect of any hackathon is the people that participate in it and hence a very robust outreach amongst the developers, designers, hackers is crucial, there are a bunch of companies that help you do this today, that have large databases who market the hackathons to the target audience and also help you shortlist the right candidates and manage the hackathon.

Make sure you’ve a venue that could accommodate the number of people you’re looking to host and has good ventilation, wi-fi connectivity, washrooms and pantry, we hosted the 100 people botathon at TLabs

Do create outreach and media partners, using a larger network always help, see if you can get to partner with organisations is the ecosystem , colleges and media houses, a couple of pre-articles could certainly boost the applications.

We all know the most essential thing after air is now wi-fi, the lifeline of your hackathon is going to be wifi, ensure you’ve a full time technician present and a solid line with at least 1 back up connection, 2 are even better. Do handout a print out of the password and procedure to connect (helps)

A continuous supply of good food is a must as hackathons are draining, some energy drinks, tea & coffee, snacks (specially midnight) along with the standard 3 meals are must, always order 20% less food on last day as some teams leave before as they’re super tired.

Another crucial element is Prize Money, the higher the prize money certainly the more participants it attracts, but you need not go nuts about it, a decent prize money along with additional benefits such as recognition, job/ internship offers, in-kind gifts also attracts good participants, hackers have a craze to win, winning is more important than the prize money!
Large corporates can keep prizes upto 1o Lacs, while a startup could manage the same within a Lac and a college can do the same within 50k’s.

One of the most most important factors is clear communication to the participants, such as team sizes — if it’s compulsory to participate in teams of two/ three, if there is certain technology/platforms mandatory to be used, if there’s any specific problem statement, timeline within which product needs to be submitted, all the ground rules- if participants could use only open source data, if they can build products on top of something they’ve developed already and more… It’s a really good idea to provide this information right at the registration desk in the shape of print outs/ e-mails, along with procedure to use the wi-fi.

Having good quality mentors is a must, an absolute essential, they not only guide on tech, design, quick hacks but more importantly about the whole product and the viability / business side of the product.

Very clearly laid judging criteria needs to be shared with participants & judges both, for participants to know what they need to focus on and for judges to understand the products showcased have been crafted in 24/36 hours not 6/12 months, just to set clear expectations.

Make sure you’ve 3–4 dedicated volunteers help you with your hackathon, from assisting in sorting wifi issues, registrations, food, print outs, specially during the night.

Make sure teams are allotted numbers that are clearly readable from a distance, this comes really handy for mentors to visit specific teams, in solving tech issues and communicating things with specific teams.

Usually all hackathons would have some tech partners like AWS/ Microsoft that would provide free cloud credits & tech tools to participants, it’s very crucial to give procedures to use the same in written, best way is to hand along the procedures at the time of registration.

This blog was first published om Medium.