How to Organize and Run a Hackathon

How to Organize a Hackathon

How to Organize and Run a Hackathon

Hackathons are massive events requiring complex solving problems in a limited amount of time.

Still, they are great spaces for innovation and idea generation. Whether you are a business, university, or another organization, we will explore the basic steps required for anyone to develop their hackathons, from preparation to post-event activities.

Key Takeaways:

  • Define the goals of the hackathon before planning.
  • Choose a venue that is accessible and equipped with technology.
  • Plan an agenda with introductions, problem-solving sessions, and breaks.
  • Design challenges aligned with the event’s goals.
  • Communicate rules and regulations and offer the necessary technology.
  • Foster diversity and inclusiveness.
  • Make the hackathon fun and memorable with exciting projects, a supportive atmosphere, collaboration, prizes, food and drinks, entertainment, and experienced mentors and judges.


Step 1: Define Objectives

The first step in preparing for a hackathon is figuring out the event’s objectives.

Objectives guide the rest of the planning process and help ensure the event is successful. Some common goals of these hackathons include promoting innovation, encouraging collaboration, and fostering a culture of experimentation and creativity.

Step 2: Choose the Participants

Once you define the goals, the next step is to choose the participants.

Participants should be selected based on their skills, interests, ability, and capability to work well in a team environment.

It is important to consider diversity and inclusiveness when choosing participants, as this can help promote a variety of perspectives and ideas. Also, encourage those who have few skills to come to your event so that they may learn. Doing so will help foster a learning environment for the next generation of ethical hackers.

Step 3: Set the Venue

Organizations should choose the venue for the hackathon based on the event’s size and the participants’ needs.

It should be accessible, comfortable, and equipped with the necessary technology and tools. Consider location, availability, and cost when selecting a venue. Consider an online platform over an in-person one if you want lower costs.

Step 4: Plan the Agenda

The agenda for the hackathon should be carefully planned and consider the event’s objectives.

The schedule should include time for introductions, team-building activities, problem-solving sessions, and presentations. It is essential to allow for breaks and time for participants to network and socialize.

Designing the Hackathon

Creating the hackathon can be the fun part! Here are some general ideas to keep in mind:

Define the Challenges

The challenges for the hackathon should be carefully selected and aligned with the event’s goals.

Consider the skills and abilities of the participants when deciding the challenges. Then try to create a balance between possible and challenging problems. Also, feel free to get creative!

Determining the Rules and Regulations

Organizations should communicate the rules and regulations for the hackathon, from behavior to submission process to judging criteria to participants in advance.

These rules are essential for hackathons if you are creating a product. There are legal issues on who exactly owns this product.

Offer the Right Tools and Technology

Organizations should ensure that the venue has the necessary technology and tools to solve the challenges, such as computers, software, and equipment. It is essential to provide participants with access to the resources they need to be successful, as this will help them succeed.

Ensure Diversity and Inclusiveness

Diversity and inclusiveness should be a top priority when designing the hackathon.

Consider the needs of participants from diverse backgrounds and provide a supportive and inclusive environment. The accessibility of these events can include accommodations for disabilities, language support, and a code of conduct that promotes respect and equality.

Running the Hackathon

To run the hackathon, organizations will need to consider these pieces:

Recruit Mentors and Judges

Mentors and judges play an essential role in the hackathon and should be selected based on their ability and experience. Mentors can bring guidance and support to participants, while judges will evaluate the results and decide on the winners.

Managing the Logistics

Organizations should carefully manage the logistics of the hackathon to ensure a smooth and successful event. These logistics include overseeing the setup and operation of technology and equipment, managing the schedule, and ensuring participants have what they need to succeed.

Encouraging Collaboration and Innovation

One of the key benefits of hosting a hackathon is the opportunity for employees to collaborate and innovate together. To maximize these benefits, organizers should encourage and facilitate collaboration among participants.

One way to do this is by creating a supportive and inclusive environment where all participants feel comfortable sharing their ideas and working together. Inclusivity can include giving breaks and opportunities for social interaction and promoting open communication and collaboration through tools such as real-time collaboration software or brainstorming sessions. Additionally, inclusivity should extend to speakers, mentors, and judges.

In addition to fostering a supportive atmosphere, it is essential to provide participants with the tools and resources they need to succeed. The tools and resources may include access to data, APIs, or other resources to help them turn their ideas into reality.

Making the Hackathon Fun and Memorable

Here are some ways organizers can make hackathons fun and memorable:

  1. Offer exciting and challenging projects: Encourage participants to tackle complex and fun projects to keep them engaged and motivated throughout the event.
  2. Create a supportive and inclusive atmosphere: Ensure that all participants feel welcome and valued, regardless of their backgrounds or experience levels.
  3. Encourage collaboration and teamwork: Provide opportunities for participants to work together and build relationships with one another. This networking fosters community and encourages participants to share their skills and knowledge.
  4. Present exciting prizes and rewards: Offer attractive bonuses for the best hacks, projects, and fun side events such as coding challenges and mini-games.
  5. Offer food, drinks, and entertainment: Supply snacks, drinks, and other refreshments to keep participants fueled and engaged throughout the event. Consider also having entertainment options such as music, games, or movies to offer a break from coding.
  6. Have experienced mentors and judges: Provide experienced mentors and judges to help participants with their projects and give feedback and guidance.
  7. Plan activities and events outside of hacking time: Plan fun activities and events outside of hacking time, such as social outings, team-building activities, and networking opportunities.

Post-Hackathon Actions

After the hackathon has concluded, it is essential to celebrate the achievements of the participants and recognize their hard work. This part usually includes announcing winners, awarding prizes, and thanking everyone who participated.

In addition to recognizing the participants, it is also important to celebrate the event’s success. By highlighting the hackathon’s benefits and impact on the organization, you can help build momentum for future events and encourage others to get involved.

Here are some other ideas to consider after your event:

Evaluate the Results

After the hackathon has come to a close, it is crucial to take the time to evaluate the results and assess what worked well. Evaluation helps improve future events. To do so, you should include the following:

  • Reviewing participant feedback.
  • Analyzing the impact of the event on the organization.
  • Reflecting on the goals set at the start.

Share Outcomes and Insights

Share the outcomes and insights generated from the hackathon, which will maximize the impact of the hackathon even further. You can format this information into presentations, reports, or other materials that help communicate the event’s results and benefits.

Support the Follow-up Actions

One of the biggest challenges facing organizations that host hackathons is ensuring that organizations act upon the ideas and solutions generated during the event. Organizations can fix this issue quickly by supporting follow-up actions, including resources and support for participants who wish to pursue their projects further.

Continuously Improve the Process

Organizations can continuously evaluate and improve the process to ensure that each successive hackathon is even more successful than the last. To do this, make changes to the format or structure of the event, update the technology used, or adjust the rules and regulations to support innovation and collaboration better.

Quick Timeline

Here is a timeline for creating a successful hackathon over a year:

  1. Start Planning (12 months before): Choose a date and venue for your hackathon and start thinking about the theme and target audience.
  2. Assemble a Team (11 months before): Find a group of people who can help you plan and execute the event.
  3. Define the Hackathon Format (10 months before): Decide on the length of the event, type of challenges, rules, prizes, and judging criteria.
  4. Secure Sponsors and Partners (9 months before): Look for companies that can give financial, technical, or logistical support for the hackathon.
  5. Invite Participants (8 months before): Spread the word about your event through social media, email, and other marketing channels. Create a website to deliver information about the hackathon and encourage registration.
  6. Plan the agenda (7 months before): Develop a detailed schedule of events, including keynotes, workshops, mentorship sessions, and networking opportunities.
  7. Prepare the venue (6 months before): Book a suitable location, arrange food and drinks, and check if the space can accommodate the participants.
  8. Finalize Details (3 months before): Confirm the number of participants, complete the agenda, and make any necessary arrangements for the event.
  9. Start the hackathon (1 month before): Welcome participants, give an overview of the event, and kick off the hacking.
  10. Monitor and Support Participants (During the event): Ensure participants have access to the necessary resources and support throughout the hackathon.
  11. Evaluate and Award (After the event): Once the hacking period is over, have a panel of judges evaluate the projects and award prizes to the winners.
  12. Follow-up and Evaluate (2 months after): Gather feedback from participants and sponsors and evaluate the hackathon’s success. Use the feedback to improve future events.


Hosting a hackathon can be a valuable and effective way to foster creativity, innovation, and collaboration within your team.

By following these key steps and continuously improving the process, organizations can maximize the impact of these events and reap the benefits for years to come.

So, gather your team of tech wizards, whip up some challenging problems, and let the hacking commence – who knows, you might create the next big thing!