How to win a hackathon?

How to win a hackathon?

So, you decided to apply to a hackathon. The first thing you have to know is that hackathons aren’t just about your technical skills. They are about teamwork, endurance, resourcefulness and creativity. The only thing that stands between you and that shiny first place (that usually comes with a prize and eternal fame) is this blog. Dive in and learn how to win a hackathon!

Approaching a hackathon is like making a gourmet meal. In the culinary world, the secret to a great dish often lies in preparation. Similarly, while the exact challenge of a hackathon remains a mystery until the start, the groundwork you lay in anticipation will set the stage for success.

1. The team!

The first thing you will do after applying is form your team. Creating a diverse team with different strengths is the way to go. For example, if it is a web hackathon, it would be great to have both frontend and backend developers. But, don’t forget about having someone with design or presentational skills, even if they’re not the best programmers in the world as sometimes the result is only as good as it’s presented. Meaning, if your team consists of you and three friends, all of whom are coding wizards but struggle with public speaking, it may not be the best approach.

Swords united meme - hackathon team

2. Planning, planning and more planning!

Every good cook knows that you can’t make a good meal by just running around like a headless chicken! Hackathon is the same way – you need to have a plan! Define “minimum viable solution” and don’t try to work on everything at the same time because you will end up working on 10 different features and you won’t finish a single one. It is much better to have fewer features properly finished than having a bunch of them but they’re all broken. And remember Einstein said “Time is relative” so 24 hours is a long time, but not as long as you think.

3. Don’t forget the gimmicks!

It’s great to have a solid project, but don’t forget to add a little something extra that grabs attention! If your project is super detailed but someone else’s looks cooler or more fun, they might catch the judges’ eyes first. That said, quality still matters! Projects slapped together last minute can often be spotted easily, even in the rush of a hackathon. So, while having a strong core to your project is key, throw in a bit of wow too. Aim to make it both cool and reliable, rather than just piling on the latest tech tricks.

4. Pitch It Like It’s Ready to Launch!

When presenting, act like your project is just a step away from hitting the market. Outline your plans and share ideas for making it even better. These insights can earn you extra points without the need for extra coding. Discuss potential upgrades, future add-ons, and how your solution can grow. By showing that you’ve thought ahead, you’re proving that your project isn’t just a one-off hackathon piece, but something with a vision and a roadmap. So, highlight its potential and let everyone see the bigger picture!

5. You need CSS to win

Let’s be real – no one’s taking home the trophy with a boring, black-and-white site. Taking a moment to focus on the design, even just the first impression, can make all the difference. Good appearance not only catches the eye but also suggests that the rest of your application is also thoughtful and well-executed. So, don’t skip the style; a splash of color and design can take your project to the next level!

6. Teamwork Beyond Your Team

Hackathons aren’t just about coding – they’re about connecting, too. Chatting with other teams can be more than just a fun break—it can give you that extra edge. When you’re on a roll, take a quick look around. See what others are up to, what they’re nailing, and what cool features they’re adding. You might pick up a trick or two to refine your approach.

But sometimes, you won’t be ahead. If you hit a rough patch, don’t be shy to check in with fellow participants. Knowing that others are also facing challenges or adjusting their initial plans can be reassuring. You might find that, like you, they’re also streamlining their projects due to time constraints. Stay focused, stay motivated, and remember, it’s all part of the journey!

6. Stand Out from the Crowd!

To secure that hackathon win, it’s importnat to bring something different to the table. If you’ve got a unique feature or tool, show it with pride! When your innovation relates directly to the challenge at hand, emphasize its relevance and why it matters. And if it’s a tech edge, make sure everyone understands its perks.

Drawing from my own hackathon experiences, we often set ourselves apart by deploying our web apps to the cloud with snazzy custom domains, rather than the usual free ones. Wrapping up our presentations, we’d drop lines like, ‘Why not give .me a visit?’ These domains often cost next to nothing, but that little touch made our project memorable. So, always look for ways to add your own special flair!

You’ve got this!

Diving into a hackathon is a exciting experience, filled with highs, lows, breakthroughs, and challenges. It’s not just about coding fast; it’s about bringing together creativity, strategy, and collaboration. As you embark on your first hackathon, remember that success often lies in the details, the extra flair, and the connections you make along the way. So, take a deep breath, trust your skills, lean on your team, and always aim to leave a lasting impression. Best of luck, and may the code be ever in your favor!

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