Since hackers do not need to make travel arrangements to attend a digital hackathon, you will likely see sign-ups rising closer to the event start that you may see at in-person events. The exciting part of this is you now have the ability to promote your event to hackers anywhere in the world!
Before setting any timelines, you have to set up goals of targeting your hackers. These can be limited to your university, city, state, country or a certain region. Even while having an international focus, try to have different targets from regions. We recommend focusing on your local community first and then expanding from there. This makes sure that your roots are strong and you're ready to expand with your hackathon!
As you plan your marketing timeline, keep in mind that you will see a dropoff rate between the number of hackers who signed up to attend your event and the number who participate. The attrition rate varies from event to event, but in general, we expect about a 50% dropoff rate for free hackathons.
In general, we recommend aiming to have 100% of your goal attendance signed up two weeks before the event and 200% of your attendance goal signed up one week in advance. We also recommend having an upper limit to the number of registrations you can expect. Having some kind of a filtering process for attendees helps a lot in ensuring the quality and interest in participation.
For example, if you're aiming to have 500 attendees, a good timeline may be:
3 months before
2 months before
1 month before
2 weeks before
1 week before