Author: Susanne Marx, Aug 2019
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 as well as Greifswald, it was written both code, ideas and prototypes of any kind (even paper-prototypes) were accepted.
For communication tools, the success differed in different countries. 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. 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. In Germany, communication to attract participants was mostly personal and using organizators’ own media e.g. university newsletter. It required considerable effort to convince pupils and students for participation, also partly, not knowing what to expect or fearing not being good enough to participate.
Register the event at hackathon and event websites (challengerocket.com and others e.g. crossweb.pl for Poland), meetup.com (paid), digestlithuania.lt (for Lithuania), or hub (for Sweden).
Create a Facebook event. Point out a representative to report on Facebook during the 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
For offline promotion we have made good experiences with:
- Personal meetings to present event concept e.g. with students or pupils
- Communication via multipliers
- Press Releases
- Presentation at lectures
- Posters in public and in participating institutions and at educational institutions
- Newsletters of educational institutions and museums
- Digital screens in public and in participating institutions and at educational institutions
- A patronage of regional and national authorities can support communication outreach and credibility.
Winning sponsors is recommended. On the one hand they could provide prizes or technological items needed during the hackathon, on the other hand participants also attend the hackathon for getting job contacts.
Registration started about 4-6 weeks before the event. It is good to let to know people about the event before the registration starts, for example presentations to e.g. student groups started 3-4 months before the event. However, if target groups are different, this strongly affects the communication timeline. For example in Sweden, if the event was 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), Dietary requests
- With registration: confirm terms and conditions
- Decide on team or individual registration: We recommend, participants register separately, indicating the team they belong to.
- 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 but hardly used.
Having a brand for the hackathon is very important, to recognize it easily and create identification during the event. 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.
The terms and conditions were most difficult to create, as they are venue and country specific. It is recommended to plan considerable time and use a small team along with a legal advisor for their development. From the first version, little adaptation was needed to transfer them to other countries to comply with local law and a different event situation.
For the winning teams, there was an extra contract, that they give the rights of their developments to the organizers.
- Explain a short outline of terms and conditions in simple language on the registration website. Participants seem not to read the terms and conditions document.
- Terms and conditions should ask for handing over the ideas and materials developed to the hackathon hosts for all teams, not only from the winning team.
- 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.
- If in an international setting: clarify language requirements during the hackathon
It is recommended to have one person responsible for all communication with the participants.
The organizers should clearly divide the responsibilities among the team members as it is difficult for one person to be in charge of everything. A separate person should deal just with the content of the hackathon: participants, topics, presentation, mentoring, etc. Another person/persons should be responsible for infrastructure: catering, facilities, etc. Following information was given to participants at our final hackathon:
For the time of Baltathon, the organizer shall provide:
- catering and beverages
- power supply
- access to the Internet (WiFi)
- working space
- bathroom facilities (WC, showers)
- recreational space
The participants bring:
- Hardware: The Participants in Baltathon shall bring for themselves computer hardware, software or other tools required for participation in Baltathon (e.g. laptop, smartphone, adapters, etc.).
- Software: Both commercial software and freeware may be used. If commercial software is used, participants are obligated to possess the necessary licenses. The organizer does not provide any software.
- Recreation: During the event the organizer shall provide participants with sufficient recreational rooms, which can also be used as bedrooms. Participants are urged to bring sleeping bags and roll mats with them, as those are not provided by the organizer.
- Do not bring: The participants in Baltathon are hereby forbidden to consume alcoholic beverages, intoxicants or drugs during the event.
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