Türchen 2: Hackathons, organizers point of view

Türchen 2: Hackathons, organizers point of view

When I started to organize my first hackathon for firegento, I was looking for a checklist, a how-to or a tipps & tricks, like you find them for weddings or festivals, in order to have it a little bit easier and to become confident.

And now a couple of hackathons later, I would like to share my personal checklist.

My list doesn´t claim to be complete, but it´s a good starting point and you can add and personalize it as much as you need.


The evening before

There are many options what you can do as PreParty:

  • visit a pub/bar/restaurant/biergarten
  • meet in the local park
  • make a fire camp and/or a barbeque

Select a place, where everyone can talk without yelling at each other and where people can change easily their talking partners. Don´t choose a fixed starting point, because the most attendees will arrive at different times. The experience shows, that the people only want to talk and have a relaxed time, so there is not necessarily a need for a fancy entertaining program.

Important: if you organize a hackathon in germany and plan to have music at your party, you need to register the event at the GEMA at the latest 7 days before and pay a fee for it.


The location

There are two options for finding a place for your hackathon, either you rent a room or have a sponsor, which provides his office rooms for the event.

How much space you need is really depending on the number of attendees, but some things are always the same:

  • the place should be easy to reach
  • everyone should have a proper desk
  • you need a conference room or a huge room to start, to present the ideas and suggestions and to close the hackathon
  • nice to have: a room for the buffett or whatever you will serve
  • you need a good internet connection and wifi
  • a projector to show the projects

Hackerspaces, co-working spaces, innovation labs and youth hostels are recommendable locations.

A lot of people like to code into the night on the hackathon days. So a party or an event make less sense and I recommend to have open-end available rooms.

I also suggest to think about a time-limited liability insurance for the location.


The food & beverage

According to my experience, the attendees are very modest about food wishes and expectations. As long it´s enough, everyone is happy with simple food.

Important is to communicate which food is when to expect. For example, will you provide breakfast or should everyone eat at their hotel?

A typical catering list for the firegento hackathons:

  • warm lunch + salads (including special needed food like vegan and so on)
  • dessert
  • fruits and vegetables
  • sweets & snacks
  • cake for the teatime
  • cold food for dinner
  • water, beer, soda, mate
  • coffee + milk & sugar

You need to plan what you buy by yourself, what can be delivered or what can be ordered at your location.


The ticket price

You have a sponsor, who covers the costs and you don´t need to sell the tickets?

That’s awesome, but taking no admission fee results in less serious applications.

So take a protection fee and do something good with the money. Invite someone, who couldn´t afford the hackathon or donate it. There are so many options.

In most cases, you will need to sell the tickets for your hackathon, but the amount of the price will have so many dependencies, that I can´t give a proper suggestion.


The communication

When you write about your planned hackathon, write for people, who were never before at one. Made them feel welcome and well prepared to take away hesitations.

Write at least one email with all the information two or three days before your event.

Invite shy or new people personally, it´s much easier for them to join if they know someone and they feel much more welcome.

Ask about food wishes (vegan, …) and allergies at the registration.

If you are planning to make shirts with names, ask for the name or nickname to be printed or whether they want an anonymous shirt.


The swag

Choose whatever you think could work for your attendes, something to play (Lego for example worked quite well), something to wear or somethings practical. In my experience there are „only“ three restrictions:

  • the amount of time you have to order the swag
  • do you need space for the sponsor-logos
  • your budget

For example if you want to make a personal gimmick, you have to plan with late registrations and a very short amount of time to order it.


The checklist


What do i need to organize?

  • ▢ Ticket sale
  • ▢ PreParty-location
  • ▢ Hackathon-location
  • ▢ Internet connection and wifi
  • ▢ Maybe a room contingent in a hotel nearby
  • ▢ Sponsors (+ logos for the swag/website)
  • ▢ Food & beverage for the PreParty
  • ▢ Food & beveragefor the hackathon
  • ▢ Swag
  • ▢ GEMA (at the latest 7 days before the party)
  • ▢ Insurance


For what do i need to pay?

  • ▢ PreParty
  • ▢ Rental fee
  • ▢ Food
  • ▢ Sweets & snacks
  • ▢ Beverage (water, maybe beer, soda, mate)
  • ▢ Coffee, milk, sugar
  • ▢ Stuff (kitchen roll, garbage bags, … )
  • ▢ Swag
  • ▢ (Insurance)
  • ▢ (GEMA)


Little helpers

  • ▢ batteries
  • ▢ painkillers (i´m not judging anyone^^)
  • ▢ garbage bags
  • ▢ kitchen roll
  • ▢ armor tape
  • ▢ screw driver / pocketknife
  • ▢ plaster


Which infos should be on your website and in your emails?

  • ▢ What to expect
  • ▢ price and what is included, like hotel room
  • ▢ Hotel recommendation
  • ▢ Code of conduct
  • ▢ Mention the sponsors


  • ▢ Adress
  • ▢ Directions
  • ▢ Beginning/End
  • ▢ Parking spots
  • ▢ Is the food & beverage payed?


  • ▢ Adress
  • ▢ Directions
  • ▢ Beginning/End
  • ▢ Parking spots
  • ▢ Time table



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