The major thinking behind hacker engagement is to simulate the same experience one might have at an in-person event. The level of communication, fun, connectivity, learning and the overall life-changing experience one has in a hackathon is unmatched to any other event. To simulate this, we have seen the best way is to increase in any possible way, the communication between the attendees, be it the hackers, sponsors, judges, mentors or event the organisers!
In a physical event, you can quickly communicate with people in the same room as you. However, at a digital event, you’ll need to set up an environment so that people feel comfortable starting conversations as they would in-person.
As we discussed in the Digital Hackathons Software section, having a chat channel like Slack/Discord is essential. Creating separate channels for groups, teams, and interests would be the first step. We also suggest your organizing team to be active on these platforms to help facilitate conversations, moderate threads and get people chatting. This also makes your hackathon more accessible for people who have a hard time in large groups.
Don’t forget to set up Discord roles to show if someone is an organizer, hacker, sponsor, or mentor. If you're using Slack, you can utilize statuses for this information.
Have an organizer in a voice chat at all times. Tell hackers and sponsors they can hop on the chat to ask questions or just hang out. This can be a great way to have some kind of a hangout session in the hackathon where people can talk random stuff, related/ not related to the hackathon and have a great time together!
Organizing small breakout sessions of mini-event or games in a digital world becomes more crucial than ever. These can be great ways to help your hackers have some fun, meet people around and find something useful from the whole experience!
Workshops are a great way to get your hackers in the mood of working on something new, something they have not experienced or tried before and help your sponsors as well by increasing their product awareness. Having workshops, webinars etc. work extremely when it comes to facilitating a conversation within the hackathon!
Send updates into your chat channel throughout the event. Remind people when activities are happening and share highlights from your activities! Expect questions to pop us as soon as you announce an event, so give some buffer time for questions and folks to join events late.