What do you want or need to get out of a hackathon? Defining your goals in the beginning will help inform your decision-making later on the planning process. Additionally, thinking about the overall goals will help you determine if a hackathon is the right action for you to take. It’s possible that a tech talk, webinar, multi-month coding challenge, etc. might be more appropriate for what you are trying to achieve.
When you think about hackathon goals, you should think about what you and your sponsors want to accomplish with the hackathon. You may not know exactly what a sponsor hope to accomplish with a hackathon, but the exercise of brainstorming what would matter to a sponsor will help you later on.
I run hackathons as part of an established developer evangelism program. We have overall program goals that help to decide what our hackathon goals are. Some of our hackathon goals are as follows:
- Brand awareness (hackathons are part of the overall marketing strategy)
- Attendance (a great quantifiable goal)
- Event satisfaction
- Foster innovation
- Build technology communities
- Provide education within technology community (hackathons are a great place to learn very quickly!)
- Promote a particular technology
- Gather feedback from developers about a technology (beta product, API, hardware, software service, etc.)
I focus my hackathons on providing a time and space for participants to create and build cool technology. I understand that a hackathon is a very short period of time. A shiny and polished app is not going to come out of these hackathons. A longer hackathon may have different results, but the hackathons I run are 24 – 36 hours long. Many projects are, figuratively, held together with toothpicks and bubblegum.
Frequently, there are very creative ideas that come out of hackathons, but they aren’t production ready yet. They will need a lot more work before they get listed in an app store or go live. If you are looking to build a startup, get a polished app, or finalize a business plan as a deliverable, a hackathon may not be the best way to achieve those goals. There are other events and programs you can use to achieve those objectives.
After you’ve defined your hackathon goals, you will need to define how to measure them to define success. Goals such as “Brand awareness” are pretty fluffy and difficult to measure. However, a goal such as hashtag usage or social handle mentions can contribute to brand awareness and are easier to measure. Goals such as event satisfaction or feedback can be done easily with an event survey.
If you’ve listed your goals and a hackathon is a great to meet those goals, awesome! Stay tuned for more info that will help make your event a success.