5 Tips To Prepare for a Hackathon

Joining a hackathon is a must-have experience in your life. You can find a lot of fun, learn new things and network with people from different fields there. I would recommend everyone to try one. Here come 5 tips to help you prepare for your first hackathon.

1. Find Teammates
The first essential thing surely is finding teammates, some hackathons require team application or priority will be given to teams. This can save the time of the organiser to group participants and usually, pre-formed teams have higher working efficiency and better synergy. Although there can be exceptional cases and sometimes, organisers would like to have the teams arranged by themselves so each team can have specialties from different background, if team formation is allowed before the competition, you should play smart and find your partners first. To make a perfect team for joining hackathons, you should find people from different fields so everyone can make up for each other’s deficiencies and focus on your strength. There is another article telling you what kind of people you should find for your team and why you need to have them.

2. Brainstorm for ideas
The hackathon organisers may release the contest topics before the hack day, the reasons that they release the question statements earlier is to let participants have some more time to research on the topics. Sometimes, the topics were really the struggles for the companies so that’s why they hosted hackathons to help them seek solutions. Therefore, they would like to give more time for participants to think of ideas. Start preparing the ideas earlier, you can also plan for some questions to ask the mentors on hack days.

3. Find References
There are many source codes and templates like PowerPoint and mockup available online, as time is limited in a hackathon, having ready-to-use templates or source codes can save you much time. Usually, for the source codes online, you need to spend some time to study them to debug or ensure no compatibility issues with the version of your programming languages. For presentation deck and mockup, there are many useful websites provides free resources. Different wireframe and prototype developing software have galleries to showcase other creators’ works. You can find many wireframes like a simple app design of Instagram or Carousel. These are very good resources for you to quick-start your project. There will be another article to introduce some convenient websites for you to find beautiful templates.

4. Research on the Company’s Background
Based on the company’s background, you can add some of the elements into your presentation such as the color schemes, their mission, and their recent projects. These are the details that can draw the attention of the judges. Apart from this, if your project ideas can align with the company’s mission, your project will be easier to raise the interest of juries and so may have a higher chance of winning the hackathon. Besides, you can also do some searching to see why the companies organise the hackathons. Some common purposes including promoting startup cultures, cultivating an innovative brand image, and recruiting talents. You can figure out that based on the rewards listed or google if the companies took any follow-up actions with the winning teams in the past hackathons. Based on the purposes, you can have a guess what ideas can interest the judges more. If the companies want to encourage young people to start their own companies, you can work on something that you are more interested in as this project idea may finally become a startup.

5. Think about the purpose of joining
There are many reasons for joining a hackathon, they can be meeting new friends, learning new technologies in the field and getting a job opportunity. Before going to a hackathon, think carefully about what you want to achieve and what you should do to achieve your goals. For example, if you want to network with domain experts, you can dress up a bit, arrive at the venue earlier and grab any chances to present yourself on stage or in front of others. What if you want to get a job opportunity? Usually, there are mentoring sessions in a hackathon. Seniors from the organising company will come to each team and listen for ideas. Be ready to present the ideas, it is the right timing to leave a good impression to them. If the hackathons are targeting students, most of them will offer internships opportunities to potential participants.

Hope this article can help you better prepare for your next hackathon =)
Stay tuned to my hackathon series on Medium if you want to know more about hackathon.