Hackathons can be extremely rewarding, even if you don’t win! That said, going in with a winner’s mindset is key to getting the most out of a hackathon. But how do you win a hackathon? Well, victory comes to those who are prepared, and since hackathons vary by theme, length, and format, you need to be prepared for anything.
If you want to win a hackathon—if you think a hackathon is a perfect place to display your competitive nature—then you’ll want to pay attention to the tips listed below. With them, you’ll be prepared to win any hackathon.
7 Tips for Your First Hackathon
1. Get Some Rest Before the Event
Most hackathons last around 24 hours, though it is possible for some to last even longer. Since teams only have 24 hours to develop their idea—whether that be an app, a website, or a full-fledged computer program—most teams end up staying up throughout the night. For the truly committed, it means little sleep, no showering, little time to eat, and hours upon hours of coding.
One smart way to prepare is to get plenty of rest in the first few days before the hackathon starts. Don’t overexert yourself, don’t forget to eat healthy meals, and get a full night’s rest. Working on an empty stomach and four hours of sleep won’t help you or your team.
2. Learn to Work as a Team
Are you someone who works well in a team? Or do you prefer working alone? When it comes to programming and coding, working by yourself just won’t cut it, especially in a hackathon, where cooperation equals success.
It’s essential to your success that you work well with your team. Make sure that you mesh well with your team and that you all are on board with the same project idea. Most importantly, make sure to communicate clearly with your team. A clean communication pipeline, designated roles, and a sense of teamwork will make any team go far in any hackathon.
3. Focus on the Presentation
Your team could develop the most advanced program ever achieved at a hackathon. It could be bug-free, work as well as any program could hope to, and be basically perfect, but all of it means nothing if your team is not able to sell the idea properly.
In the real world, marketing is half the battle. If you can’t market your product in a way that makes sense to its end-users, it won’t sell. The same goes for hackathons. For this reason, you should focus on coming up with a good presentation alongside working on putting together your project. One trick that seasoned hackathon pros use is to bring with them pre-developed pitch decks and presentation slides so they can quickly assemble their content at the event.
4. Stay Confident
Everyone has heard the phrase, “Confidence is key,” at least once in their lives. And it’s true! Confidence helps motivate and enable you to work on projects, especially during hackathons. However, seeing so many bright minds, from entry-level programmers to seasoned experts, has its way of making you feel doubtful, worried you don’t have what it takes.
Imposter syndrome is no stranger in the tech world, and you’re sure to feel it every now and then. Just remember that you’re there at the hackathon for a reason, and no matter where you’re at, there is something of value that you can contribute! Hype yourself up before and during the hackathon. If you’ve pre-assembled your team before registering for the hackathon, spend some time before the event hanging out with your team to build morale. What’s important is that you stay confident.
5. Don’t Forget to Pack the Essentials
The last thing you want to happen during a hackathon is for your laptop to die, and you don’t have any way to charge it. Before you attend the hackathon, make sure you pack your own event essentials, from laptop chargers, battery packs, power snacks, and even another set of clothes.
Even if you don’t end up needing 90% of what you pack, it’s better to be over-prepared than underprepared.
6. Don’t Get Hung Up on Bells and Whistles
Whether you and your team are developing a computer program or an app, it’s important that you all focus on functionality and the user experience over making it look good. In other words, appearance matters less than functionality.
You’d be surprised at how many young developers focus on making their app look good, wasting valuable time that could be spent on app usability, functionality, and included content. First impressions matter, of course, but don’t prioritize bells and whistles over the actual app.
7. Work on Communication
Having a team you work well with is important, but be sure that you and your team members are constantly communicating with each other; don’t have people quietly working on their part of the project. Clear, concise communication will go a long way during hectic moments during the hackathon.
Hackathons are fun and exciting, but they can also be tiring and stressful. If you want to win a hackathon, you’ll need to be willing to do whatever it takes. By practicing these tips, you’ll be well on your way to being adequately prepared.