Participating in a hackathon event is a must-do life experience. In a hackathon competition, you’ll have a lot of fun, learn new things, and network with individuals from other industries - all in a fast-paced and super intense environment. That said, prepping for your first competition can be overwhelming.
Here are eight actionable tips to help you get ready (and less stressed) for your first hackathon.
1. Know Your Goals
This is true for more than just hackathons; it's crucial to set goals for oneself before anything. Consider why you want to join in the first place. Do you want to learn a new skill but don't know where to start?
Are you looking for a way to add to your portfolio by coding something? Create an app using an API you've never used before. Are you looking for a job? Know why you're there and what you want to get out of it so you can plan accordingly.
2. Gather Your Team
Gathering a team is the most crucial step. Some hackathons require teams to apply or give priority to teams. This saves the hackathon organizers time in grouping members. Additionally, pre-formed teams generally function more efficiently and have better synergy.
3. Let Market Research Guide What You Develop
Let's be clear on something. The most common blunder made by most startups is failing to conduct adequate market research. They spend months creating something they believe will improve the world and be used by millions.
Don't rush into creating a prototype/minimum viable product (MVP) or, even worse, a complete product. You'll have to do a lot of googling to find out what you're looking for. Look for similar ideas that have already been executed similar to your own (both locally and worldwide).
4. Familiarize yourself with Git branching.
Git can be tricky sometimes, especially when you're pressed for time. One Month Rails covers the fundamental commands, but you'll need to understand branching when working in a team. Branching allows two individuals to work on different "branches"... and then merge their contributions into a "Master branch." It's a seamless experience that multiplies your team's productivity exponentially.
5. Take Advantage of Quick Deployment Solutions
A hackathon's primary goal is to put together a functioning model of your concept. Make sense of how you can quickly deploy apps on AWS, Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud. For transmitting and facilitating, PaaS solutions like Heroku, Openshift, or IBM Bluemix can be used.
6. Don't Neglect Your Presentation
Your group might be able to create the most sophisticated hackathon program ever. It may be bug-free, function, as well as any software, could, and be nearly flawless, but none of that matters if your team can't sell the concept effectively. Make sure your presentation is part of the package, and don’t forget to make sure one of your teammates can nail the pitch.
7. Keep POWER in mind
Remember to charge your laptop and carry all necessary chargers and cables (phone and laptop). You'll need to recharge several times because most hackathons are at least 24 hours long, if not 48. Don't let a low battery prevent you from taking advantage of unique opportunities.
8. Do Some Networking on the Side
Include some time for networking, whether it's through teaching or learning. One of the most enjoyable aspects of hackathons is the opportunity to meet new people. If you have experience, volunteer to link up with those who have less experience to benefit from the program and be a mentor!
If you're new to the company and want to learn more, don't hesitate to ask to participate in the sections you're interested in. Growth is the goal here for both you and everyone else. Most hackathons have mentor programs for you to learn more and feel comfortable with your questions.
Level Up By Joining a Hackathon!
Hackathons are loads of fun and career opportunities combined into one package. You'll have the chance to meet new people, explore new ideas, grow your network, learn from and educate other developers, and create something interesting. What could be better than that?
If you enjoyed this hackathon checklist, take it even further by registering for a hackathon event at Hackathon.com! Hackathon.com is the go-to place for finding the best hackathons with the biggest prize pools and best social causes. Subscribe to our newsletter and be "in the know" on the latest hackathon events right in your inbox.