How To Get Better At Hackathons: Part One

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At our recent T Phone hackathon, participants competed in four different categories on our all-new T Phone Pro. This is nothing new! We’ve been organizing hackathons for over 10 years, and had so much fun at our recent hackathon that it made us want to put together the ultimate guide to the medium. Inside are tips for both hackers and hackathon organizers. Here to help? Mario Bodemann, our developer evangelist and hack emperor.

Five golden rules for acing your next hackathon:

1. Less is more

Reduce your idea as much as possible. Distil it to its essence, because time always runs out much faster than you think it will. If you add bells and whistles, cool extras, then you won’t finish in time. Consider what you want to show and get straight to the point.

2. If there’s anything you can prep, do so!

Ask in advance what software needs to be installed and make sure it’s all up and running to save any frustration on the day. If you’ve got a bit more information, obviously, don’t code in advance — but think about what you want to get out of the hackathon, the sort of idea you want to work on and the steps you might take to realize that idea.

3. Keep talking about the things you’re doing and keep listening

Be more like a chef. If you’ve ever been in a restaurant kitchen, professional chefs spend their entire time talking. They’re talking about what they’re doing, what’s next, what obstacles there are, and I think a successful hackathon group should follow the same principle. If you do, you’ll pick up pieces and bits from all over the place. Often, other people can solve your problems (and vice versa), so communicate, communicate, communicate. 

4. When it comes to networking, do you

Check in with yourself — what’s your game plan? If you’d rather hunker down and focus on the coding, do that. If you’re feeling sociable and want to make lifelong friends, get chatting. There’s no “right” way of doing a hackathon — both are great options.

5. Don’t underestimate the power of a break

Sometimes, you’ll feel completely panicked or blocked. In these moments, go outside and touch grass, hug a tree, go to the toilet, practice some deep breathing. By exiting the room and the situation for a moment, it can break the cycle. Similarly, if the hackathon is for multiple days, don’t work on it overnight.  

If we’ve inspired you to attend a hackathon, you’ll want to sign up to our newsletter. We’ve got plenty of hackathon plans in the pipeline, and this way, you’ll be the first to find out about them! Alternatively, follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn. 

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