Planning a hackathon has its specifics, from coming up with the concept, through managing applications, to selecting winners. Keeping a checklist is the simple yet most effective way to close all the gaps in organizing such an event. A checklist also helps you avoid unexpected pop-ups that could result in even more operations. While managing the bits and pieces of your hackathon, you should stay focused on what matters the most; your hackathon success.

How To Plan A Hackathon In Eight Steps?

    1. Define The Hackathon Concept.
    2. Identify Partners And Sponsors.
    3. Build The Hackathon Website.
    4. Setup Hackathon Management Platform.
    5. Build The Hackathon Application Forms.
    6. Outreach And Marketing.
    7. Build Evaluation And Judging Forms.
    8. Draft Email Messages And Automated Notifications.

Let’s dive deeper into each item on your hackathon planning checklist.

1. Hackathon Concept

  • Define hackathon story
  • Define Hackathon Objectives & Success measures
  • Develop hackathon name, logo, and branding
  • Define hackathon target audience
  • Identify Hackathon Stakeholders (Internal & External)
  • Identify Hackathon Theme & Tracks (Problem Statement Dev)
  • Set Hackathon Budget (Prizes, events, incentives, M&B,…)
  • Set Hackathon Timeline & Plan

2. Partners and Mentors

  • Technical Partners. They should be able to provide valuable tech mentors and judges. In some cases, they choose to sponsor some of the winning prototypes.
  • Media Partners. They help with marketing and PR.
  • Community partners. Partners that have communities relevant to your hackathon. They should be able to support business or subject-matter mentors, judges, and community moderators.
  • Outreach Partners. The key to your potential participants, they do have relevant communities that would be interested in taking part in the hackathon. Think universities, technology institutes, developers, online communities, …etc.

3. Hackathon Website

The hackathon website should be informative to participants yet attractive and appealing to potential partners. The main building blocks of your website should be as follows:

  • Hackathon headline and call to action.
  • Different tracks to apply
  • Eligibility Criteria
  • Judging Criteria
  • Hackathon Timeline
  • Prizes
  • FAQs
  • Terms and Conditions

Picking an applications management platform that supports customizing a website would save you a lot of time. The last thing you need while managing your hackathon is switching between different platforms or adding more communication layers with other parties. Learn more about what you can do with Untap’s website customizer feature.

4. Applications Management Platform

When selecting a hackathon management platform, some features are a must-have for efficient hackathon management; it not only saves you a ton of work but also contribute to your hackathon growth. Verify the below while deciding on a platform:

  • Easy Applicants experience.
  • Smooth Judges’ experience.
  • Intuitive and automated workflows for admins.
  • Automated communication with applicants.

You can dive deeper into this part in our guide on selecting the best submission management software for your program.

5. Entry Application Form

Customize your entry application form based on pre-defined minimal entry requirements and evaluation criteria. Here are some basic and standard questions:

  • Basic information about applicant/team
  • The technology stack that would be used in development.
  • The proposed solution
  • Areas of mentorship/improvement.
  • You can also require information related to the business side of their product, such as the pitch deck, business model, similar product, …etc.

6. Outreach And Marketing

  • Settle if this pillar will be handled by your team or a marketing agency
  • Develop a master visual that reflects the branding
  • Set your marketing campaign plan (objectives, mechanism, goals)
  • Your marketing campaign should ideally cover all hackathon phases; pre-launch, the event, post-event, and winners announcement.
  • Prepare press release pieces and distribution plan
  • Media Kit for partners
  • Define which ad campaigns to conduct based on your target audience defined in step 1
  • Ensure your digital presence is consistent: Hackathon hashtag, visual templates, communication messages, and announcements.

7. Build Judging Forms

Setup a simple score-based evaluation based on your predefined judging criteria for the first phase. Plan the judging criteria/mode for subsequent/advanced phases of your hackathon. Keep the judging simple, score-based at early stages, then add more layers by the finale, such as interviews or live pitching.

8. Draft Email Messages & Automated Notifications

  • Welcome email upon signup.
  • Start application reminder.
  • Finish/submit your application reminder.
  • Application receipt confirmation message.
  • Qualified and disqualified emails.
  • Winners email.

Check out our 8 email templates essential for communicating with applicants.

Finally, answering some prerequisite questions would help customize and make your checklist more effective.

  1. What is the goal of the hackathon?
  2. How would you measure its success?
  3. What is the problem statement, and what are the key communication messages?
  4. Is the hackathon only focused on prototypes, or is ideation an important component?
  5. What type of mentors do you need onboard?
  6. What is your target audience?
  7. What are the benefits and/or prizes?

Preparing ahead of the launch date and finishing as many items possible from this checklist would save you a lot of time. During the hackathon, you might need more time to deal with unplanned issues that may arise.

You also need space to focus on things that matter to making your hackathon a success, such as mentoring your participants and ensuring high-quality prototypes and the best solutions to your problem statement.

Download Our Free Ready-to-Use Template