4 Tips to Win a Hackathon


Caffeine, coding, and sleep deprivation is not everyone's ideal Saturday night. However, hackathoners have grown accustomed to this trifecta in varying degrees when competing in the weekend-long competition. Below are some tips we have collected after years of participating in (and winning) hackathons:

Rule #1 - Read the Rules

If you want to be good at anything you first have to learn how it's done correctly. When starting to prepare for a future hackathon, read the rules. Many hackathons post in the upcoming months' rules that must be followed in order to participate or else you risk not placing and worse, elimination.

When brainstorming ideas, it's beneficial to investigate what the hackathon's challenge is and what issue the competitors are expected to solve.

A clear view of what is expected helps you plan your project by ensuring you're not only solving the right issue but also incorporating things that are required of you, like specific APIs and other technologies.

Reading the rules is a great start to understanding what requirements are but some things you only learn through experience. For example, the last few hackathons The SilverLogic (tsl.io) attended (like eMerge and Miami Bitcoin Hackathon), we quickly learned that judges place more weight on whether or not a team has an innovative idea than on presentation and code. Knowledge like this may change from hackathon to hackathon but it's good to take note of. Even if your presentation sucks you may be able to get by with a ground-breaking idea.

Rule #2 - Plan and Focus Your Time

"How do you organize a party in space? you plan it!"

Just like a space party, anything that you want to go smoothly with the least amount of issues as possible should be planned. The SilverLogic credits its ability to perform well during hackathons to the time we take to plan and plan efficiently.

Mapping out a minimum viable product (MVP) allows us to focus on getting priority designs and features working to ensure that we have what we need to present a functioning eye catching application.

Rule #3 - Assign Presentation Actors

Sometimes your presentation can be the difference between you making it to the next round in a Hackathon. Don't let not preparing be your downfall. Each team presents their own way, but we at TSL like to assign roles. Most important of the roles is the Presenter, or person who mainly speaks during the presentation and the Driver, or person who goes through the app while the presenter is speaking. Since this happens simultaneously, practice is needed in order for the timing to be precise. By assigning these roles, the speaker is able to focus on interacting with judges.

We at the SilverLogic like to involve other teammates in the presentation as much as possible to get everyone involved and having a good time. Teammates can act like the platform's business owner, consumer, and merchant. Each presentation will have different actors as the solution varies by teams. By assigning actors for your presentation, you're able to better organize your presentation to help it go smoothly.

Rule #4 - Deliver a Unicorn Pitch

Three core points to remember when preparing for your pitch is personalization, timing, and be striking. In order to be memorable, it's important to make a connection with your judges. How? Incorporate into your presentation something personal that the judges can relate to or be moved by. The trick to this is being as genuine as possible. Don't risk mentioning something that you do not really care for or have much knowledge on. The judges will see right through your fake love for Beyonce.

Giving a more personal touch to your pitch will increase your like-ability. Be funny, be charming, but remember, be direct and to the point. In order for judges to see everyone's work, presentations have a time limit. So put on a show, but do it in x amount of time (refer to tip 1 to find out how much time exactly you'll have).

By understanding the rules of the game, focusing on an MVP, planning your presentation and delivering a Unicorn Pitch, you give your team the best possible chance at success. The rest lies in the hands of the judges. Hackathons are meant to inspire creativity in a environment that encourages friendly competition. So don’t be the group of developers afraid to help out a fellow coder because you're worried they'll win. More important than winning is having fun, being a good sport and of course; innovation!

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