The participants of the hackathon are not only programmers, but usually interdisciplinary teams. This impacts communication to attract participants. The organizers should discuss who they want to attract. When programmers hear hackathon they think of coding, but also others should be attracted for fueling the creative process.
Further, the target of the hackathon should be clear: You should identify what is the result of the hackathon: to write a code or if you “just” want the ideas at the end of the hackathon. For the Baltathon in Gdynia, Klaipeda and Malmö, it was written both code, ideas, prototypes and skeletons of apps were wanted.
For communication tools, online communication seemed most effective. In a questionnaire after the event in Gdynia it was found that participants were attracted by the Facebook event or the organizers Facebook fan page or by word of mouth. However, there seem to be country specific differences. In Malmö, the experience was that social media activities did not result as expected, likely due to using the project account and not the museum’s account.
Create a Facebook event:
- posts every day, even two or three times a day,
- at the beginning provide general info and tips how to hack, what is hackathon, in each post add link to registration form (on separate website)
- later on publish more specific information, present mentors and agenda
- give some external content, posts from blogs, posts from other fan pages, everything what is connected to the event
- share information about previous hackathons, and invite same participants, ask them also to spread information about hackathon
- use key visuals and re-use them
- use small animations/videos – more engaging
- Hashtags important – Event hashtags to be used before, during and after event
- Place Facebook ads
Point out a representative to report on Facebook during the event.
Register the event at hackathons and events websites (challengerocket.com and others e.g. crossweb.pl for Poland), meetup.com (paid), digestlithuania.lt (for Lithuania, register event and they have a newsletter), or hub (for Sweden).
For offline promotion it is recommended to have one person to connect with well established local contacts.
- Set up posters at the universities and dormitories (focus group: students in Gdynia)
- Animation on Infomats – Information for locals and tourists – 300 locations
- Posters at the exhibition area
- Invitation for local IT companies
- Lithuania target group more open, not only student focus
- Digital screens in Malmö in all culture department institutions with information
- Emails to different multipliers in SE and DK
- Email posters to universities to print themselves and put up, contacts to universities in Malmö and Copenhagen
The Lithuanian Sea Museum used networks to get in touch with the target group. In search for the potential participants they contacted the Culture Factory of Klaipeda which had organized hackathon in Klaipeda before and was willing to share the contacts of the participants that counted 80. Via IT Company Lantelis they get in contact with Vilnius Uzupis Creative Cluster, a representative of which participated in Baltathon in Klaipeda.
For dissemination of Baltathon the following bodies and organizations were contacted:
- Lithuanian Game Developers Association;
- Build Stuff, an organizer of biggest software event in the Baltics;
- Startup Lithuania;
- Iamus, a developer and marketer of the SmarterSpheres™ solutions;
- Klaipeda State University of Applied Sciences;
- Kaunas Technology University;
- Lithuanian Students‘ Unit;
- UX Academy (User Experience Design Academy);
- Klaipeda Coding Scholl;
- Klaipeda Coders Club;
- UAB Koralis, developer of high-quality technology solutions;
A patronage of regional and national authorities can support communication outreach and credibility.
- Gdynia: Gdynia City and Ministry of Digitization
- Klaipeda: no patronage
- Malmö: no patronage (Malmö Museums is part of City of Malmö)
Winning sponsors is recommended. On the one hand they could provide prizes or technological items needed during the hackathon, on the other hand many participants attend the hackathon for getting business contacts, both for jobs or investments.
- Gdynia: no sponsors, only due to administrative hurdles
- Klaipeda: sponsorship for awards, one of sponsors was IT Cluster of Lithuania, also promoting the event on their social media channels
- Malmö: no sponsors
The motivation of the participants is manifold, however, little based on the prizes. This motivation can be used in deciding how to communicate the event. Motivational aspects:
- Getting to know the people from IT industry (for business contacts/jobs)
- Interesting topic of hackathon
- Compete, challenge
- Love programming
- Fun with friends
- Get to know new people
- Gain experiences (have a project to show when searching a job)
- Learn from other programmers
- capacity test regarding work in a group on problem based solution in a limited time
People of young target groups (especially students) tend to averse long-term planning. The start to sign up and the promotion was about 4 weeks before the event. It’s good to let to know people about the event before the registration starts. It should be in a form of some sneak peak, animation, something more mysterious. To force people to get to know more info by themselves.
However, if target groups are different, this strongly affects the communication timeline. For example in Sweden, if the event is known 6-8 months ahead, it could have been made part of the obligatory student curriculum.
Registration for the event was done via the project website in a special registration form:
- Name, Email, Interests, Phone number, Size etc. for Gadgets (e.g. Tshirt)
- With registration: confirm terms and conditions
Team or individual registration:
- In Gdynia, one person registered for the team.
- In Klaipeda, most signed up individually and during the event teams were first created, which was time consuming.
- For future hackathons it is recommended, that every participant signs up individually and during the event 30 minutes are planned to create final teams, maybe 1 min. pitch for initial ideas and then choose teams.
- A reserve list for participation should be created, if people cancel their participation.
For Malmö, the use of Crowdforge, a platform to build teams, was offered.
Having a brand for the hackathon is very important, to recognize it easily. Important are colors, that also stand out on photos during the hackathon. Additionally, a catchy key visual is recommended.
The design should be used consistently across channels.
- Strong colors
- Key visual
- Basic visual for Facebook
- Include hashtags and website
- Animation(s) for Facebook, for event kick off etc.
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Jarvis, D. (2012) ‘MGT567 Creative Problem Solving’ [online], available: https://www.slideshare.net/dajarvis/mgt567-creative-problem-solving [accessed on 16 July 2018].
Tauberer, J. (2018) ‘How to run a successful hackathon’ [online], available: https://hackathon.guide/ [accessed on 12 June 2018].