Choosing Your Hackathon’s Length
Now that we’ve covered a few of the basics of virtual hackathons, it’s time to have a think about what type of hackathon you’d like to host and how long it will run for. You can expect different outcomes and results depending on the length of your hackathon.
In this article we will break down some common hackathon lengths, expectations, as well as some pros and cons of each.
Before we dive into it, here are a few factors to consider when choosing the timeframe of your hackathon:
Generally speaking, the longer your hackathon runs, the more costs you will incur. These can be labour costs for those running the event, increased speaker and mentor fees, prize amounts, scaling software used, and more.
Depending on what type of outcome you’re hoping for, you may have a limited timeframe to work with. For faster results, you might try to squeeze an event into a single day or weekend.
The longer your event, the more time and effort you will have to put into engaging participants and keeping them interested in discussions, workshops, and mentorship.
Goals & Outcomes #
What are your events goals and desired outcomes? The more time your participants have, the more likely they are to build higher-quality products and proof of concepts. Shorter events are likely to generate ideas and proof of concepts/features at best.
Single Day Hackathon #
Focus: Idea Generation / Building MVPs / Features Timeframe: 4-8 Hours
The shortest format hackathon you can run is a single day event. These usually take place over a 4-8-hour period, where participants get time to meet and greet, receive a short briefing, and finally take part in some form of coordinated activity, sprint, or challenge that takes just a few hours to complete. By the end of the event, you will have generated a handful of useful ideas, sketches, and prototypes that have hopefully tackled the crux or challenge that your event is focused on.
Since there is such a limited amount of time for these types of events, there is rarely any onboarding or education opportunities for participants. Therefore, target an audience with a pre-selected skill set, or just run the event for networking and having fun (usually good for in-company team building events). What’s more, if you don’t define your event challenge or focus clearly enough, you will find that participants can procrastinate or go off topic, making their participation almost useless.
|Limit to what can be built
|Less team building
|Unfinished projects (Designs + Prototypes)
|Products more likely to be sketch designs/prototypes
|Fun + Morale building
|Focus is required (little time to waste)
Weekend Hackathons #
Focus: Building MVPs / Features Timeframe: 2-3 Days
If you’re looking to build on top of your single day event, or want more time to put towards team building, onboarding, education, or exploration, then weekend hackathons are a great event format to explore.
Weekend events are still low maintenance and require less organisational effort because of their short format, but they still create focused challenges and solve problems in a fast-paced environment. Whilst you want to provide half a day of workshops or onboarding on Day 1, there isn’t much time to provide hands-on mentorship for newcomers - so keep this in mind when selecting your audience. Short events are perfect for those equipped with the skills and knowledge required to build great ideas.
Participants in weekend hackathons are likely to be industry professionals, experts, or extreme hobbyists with experience in the relevant technology stack or problem space. However, you may encounter some less experienced hackers who are looking to get introduced to a particular technology or challenge, meet more experienced professionals, and form working relationships.
|Limit to what can be built
|Less team building
One Week Hackathons #
Focus: Learning & Building MVPs / Features Timeframe: 5-7 Days
Building on our weekend hackathons are week long events. These hackathons give organisers and participants a few extra days to provide conference style talks and workshops to onboard hackers into the space, becoming familiar with tech stacks, receiving mentorship, and networking.
These longer events are accessible to both skilled veteran hackers and newcomers, giving them a few extra days to get acquainted with the challenges at hand and how to solve them using relevant technologies. You can also provide more hands-on support for team formation, idea generation, and mentorship through presentations, discussions, and workshops during the first few days.
You don’t want to alienate folks with advanced knowledge in the content though - so a good strategy is to provide workshops, tutorials, and presentations that range in skill level and expertise throughout the first few days. For example, our #ShockTheWeb hackathons targeted web developers who were new to bitcoin, and did not know how to build apps on the lightning network, however we made advanced workshops available for developers who were already familiar with codebases such as WebLN, LNURL, etc.
It’s also important to consider participants’ availability during the first few days, which will likely be only week days. If you are targeting students or young professionals, you may get away with hosting daytime workshops. However, if you’re looking to host advanced workshops or tutorials for professionals, you may need to find a way around their regular 9-5 work.
|More room for education & onboarding
|More hands on
|More time for quality work
|Opportunity for more participants
|Requires higher level of organisation
One Month+ Hackathons (a.k.a Tournaments) #
Focus: Learning & Building multi-feature Products Timeframe: 6-12 Weeks
Our longest format events are called Tournaments, usually spanning 8 to 10 weeks. These events focus on high-quality onboarding, education, incubation, and acceleration of projects and ideas.
These events are suitable for all types of participants, from beginners to professionals alike. Structured into themed “accelerator” style weeks, participants can start from scratch, formulate teams, brainstorm ideas and learn how to build them, receiving mentorship and feedback from industry experts along the way. Also, participants and teams can be given financial guidance and investment advice from VCs and grant experts, encouraging the longevity and sustainability of their projects after the event has come to a close.
These events are much more time consuming for organisers, and require greater attention to detail and feedback for participants, as well as incurring much greater organisational costs. The easiest way to think about running these events is hosting a startup incubator or accelerator for founders and technologists. We don’t recommend you run an event like this if it’s your first time hosting a hackathon as there are many moving parts.
|More participants and recruitment opportunities
|Higher quality ideas + projects
|Higher operation costs
|Lots of education + onboarding
|Risk of tailoff/burnout
|Checkins + Mentorship
|Very hands on
|Startup founding + incubation potential
*Need help running your own hackathon? #
Our platform can help teams create tailored events that market key event details, allow participants to register, form teams, and submit projects whilst tracking their progress. Interested in learning more?*