Engaging your Hackers

Participants need to have an idea for a hack and be making steady progress toward their goals to stay motivated at your hackathon. While you don't want to be overbearing or dictate what hackers should make, some hackers need more support generating ideas and staying on track.

Here are some workshops and activities you can run to support these hackers so they'll enjoy your hackathon more. The types of activities we'll cover in this section are:

  • Brainstorming workshops

  • Pitch sessions

  • Check-in meetings

Brainstorming Workshop

Brainstorming is the most important part of the hacker's experience at a hackathon, and for some hackers, it's also the most difficult.

Usually, hackers take one of two approaches:

  • Start with a problem they want to solve and then develop an idea to solve it.

    Hackers who want to focus on improving an aspect of their lives or hacking for

    social impact might prefer this route.

  • Start with a technology they want to use in their hack and then develop a

    hack around it. Hackers who want to learn about a popular or emerging

    technology might prefer this route.

Running a hands-on workshop covering brainstorming techniques at the start of your hackathon will enable them to hit the ground running. Design thinking is a widely used, user-centered technique for generating and prototyping ideas to solve problems that users face.

Pitch Session

A pitch session is a structured event where hackers who have ideas for hacks and are looking for teammates present their ideas to an audience. Typically, presenters describe the problem or technology they want to design their hack around and what skill set they're looking for. Hackers who are looking for teams and have the matching skill set can offer to join the presenter.

Check-in Meetings

Check-in meetings or standups give teams face-to-face contact with other teams and a chance to report their progress and get help. At a check-in meeting, teams take turns stating what their goals are, how much progress they've made, what difficulties are impeding their progress, and what kind of help they need from mentors and other teams at the hackathon. Consider running three to five check-in meetings at regular intervals throughout your hackathon.