Hackathons 101: The New Way to Meet
Mar 29, 2016 by DeDe Mulligan

Computers and Collaboration Produce Results

 

What is a hackathon? Historically, it has been an event where computer programmers, graphic designers, and project managers collaborate intensively for 24-48 hours straight on a software project. Think of it as Red Bull meets computer geeks with the outcome of a new software offering or update. Often times, there is a significant dollar prize associated with the best team design.

In the last eighteen months, hackathons have gone mainstream and are now multiplying into a new way to bring interactive learning to conferences and meetings.

Listed below is the who, when, where and why associated with hackathons that you may wish to take advantage of at your next meeting or conference.

Components of a Successful Hackathon

 

Who might participate in a hackathon?

While most hackathons have been very technical in nature, many of the most recent successful ones (i.e. Happiness Hackathon) have included the following types of participants:

  • High School & College students
  • Software Developers
  • Computer Programmers
  • Scientists
  • Engineers
  • Entrepreneurs
  • Policy Experts
  • Executives
  • Vendors
  • Customers

In essence, the individuals that participate don’t necessarily need to be technical in nature but they do need to be vested in the outcome.

When should you hold it?

Most hackathons occur on a Friday or Saturday. However, it should be held when most of your vital attendees can be there. If it is part of the conference, you want to hold a mini-hackathon or give attendees enough time to sleep before they have to board a plane or get behind the wheel of a car.

Where is a good location?

While it may not seem like the norm, many hackathons occur in the following locations:

  • Museums
  • Retail establishments, typically large coffee shops
  • Libraries
  • Hotels and conference centers
  • Colleges

The keys are to have space for everyone to comfortably congregate in teams, provide individuals with high-speed, secure Internet connections and tablet or laptops rentals for those who do not have their own devices.

Why Hold a Hackathon?

According to Inc. Magazine, from a business prospective there are three major benefits. A hackathon:

  1. Bonds attendees and increases morale because individuals are together for 24-48 hours at a stretch.
  2. Enforces the right values because individuals are working hard, fast and toward a common goal.
  3. Leaves lasting ideas and products because a clear goal is conveyed at the onset; a new product, service or idea that wasn’t considered before will come out of the process.

In addition, PCMA Convene identified two others:

  1. Experts from different areas share content, feedback and help to define and solve specific problems in a group setting.
  2. Attendees who are not comfortable with technology can learn more about it from the experts in the room.

 

In summary, hackathons allow creative, smart people the ability to come together for a period of time and do amazing things because they are driven by innovation, incentives or improvements in the current product or service offerings. Although I have never personally participated in this type of event, I look forward to coordinating or participating in one in the future.

 

SmartSource Rentals Can Help with Your Next Hackathon

With fully-staffed and equipped branch offices in 22 major metro markets, SmartSource Rentals has the largest national footprint in the computer and audio visual rental space. Give us a call at 800.888.8686 to learn about ways we can help you!

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