What you'll need for a successful Hackathon


Things to consider:

Wi-Fi: The servers should be able to provide internet for numerous devices. Information to sign in to the Wi-Fi should be easily available via signs or cards. The biggest problem you can experience at a hackathon is the wifi going down--wifi problems are fairly common and can greatly affect the event. Make sure you have wifi tech support available either in-person (ideal) or available via phone at all hours during the event.

Bathrooms: They should be gender-neutral.

Capacity: The audience should be able to fit into the venue. Be mindful of fire codes

Location: The venue should be accessible from public transportation and not too far from your core audience. Ensure you have information on where cars and bikes can be parked without risk of theft or towing.

Accessibility: The venue should be navigable by people with all disabilities. Make sure you think through whether the venue has elevators and whether the bathrooms are accessible.

Equipment available:

  • Power Cords
  • HDMI/thunderbolt cables
  • Projectors
  • Microphones

How to Select a Venue: Once you’ve identified the capacity that you need, tap your agency’s knowledge and relationships for information on venues that they’ve used in the past. Some common venues in New York City for hackathon-like events include:

  • Civic Hall
  • Alley
  • 837 Samsung (2nd floor of flagship store in Meatpacking district)
  • Microsoft’s Community Space (2nd and 3rd floors of 5th Ave flagship store)
  • Technology Incubator / Accelerator spaces (eBay is an example)
  • Spotify’s venue space
  • Google’s HQ
  • Universities / Schools

RSVP Management

In order to have everything running smoothly the day of, have attendees register for the event beforehand, either by using Google forms, Eventbrite, Splash, or another online event registration tool.


In order to ensure a good turnout, you should start publicizing the event at least two to three months prior. Make sure event details (e.g. date, time, location, prizes) are easily available online.
  • Create an outreach list of every group / newsletter / outlet you’re going to reach out to. Ask all stakeholders (sponsors, Challenge Owners, etc.) to contribute to the list.
  • Get the word out to a large number of people by using tech-platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, GitHub, and TechCrunch.
  • Use tech platforms like Devpost or Meetup to host information about your hackathon. Establish an official event hashtag for social media to help generate buzz around your hackathon.
  • Get the press involved. For maximum exposure contact the media at least a month in advance with a press release.
  • Email community groups that work directly with the target audience.
  • Get other agencies involved in promoting the hackathon through their communications channels.
  • Leverage your partners’ networks.

Email Outreach Template

It takes a village to organize a hackathon. Emails are an effective way to get in contact with everyone, from partners to mentors. Make sure you contact all potential collaborators well in advance. Keep your initial communication short and to-the-point.


In order to keep all program participants productive and engaged, make sure you provide something in the way of sustenance.

Some important things to keep in mind:

  • Ensure all food you provide is healthy and nutritious.
  • Don’t serve alcohol if there will be attendees younger than 21.
  • Be mindful of dietary restrictions. Have vegetarian/gluten-free options.
  • If attendees are going to be on-site during any mealtime hours (8-10am; 12 – 1pm; 5-7pm), meals need to be served in those hours.
  • Snacks should be available throughout the day; ideally provide some type of carbohydrate every four hours.

It is possible to have food donated for events but you should contact restaurants / caterers at least 2 months in advance with this request.


  • Nametags
  • Microphones: make sure you have extra batteries.
  • Laptops: it’s a good idea to have backup laptops in case someone attends without one though you should let participants know to bring their own. Laptops may be good to have on-hand for the demo-portion of the event.
  • Swag: fun items like t-shirts and stickers to hand out to participants as a thank you for coming up with ideas for your agency.
  • Item for Mentors, Challenge Owners and Event Staff: make key participants visible and accessible by providing them with a t-shirt, hat or other article of clothing.