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Bring the spirit of the Hackathon to your next event

by Rosalind McCarthy on July 15, 2014

Hackathonan event where those involved in software development such as programmers, graphic designers and others with softer skills come together over a short period to collaborate intensively on software projects such as apps, websites and computer games.

While the term refers to the group creation of technological innovations, the sentiment clearly isn’t new. And this got me thinking. Mini-hackathons would be a wonderful teambuilding exercise at conferences and a great way to break the ice at networking events. You’d also get a few brownie points for topicality too!


Here you have the unique opportunity of a large group of talented and influential people under the same roof – why not the make the very most of it? Replace the classic teambuilding exercises or organized fun with a hackathon that allows delegates to actually achieve something that really adds value. At a company conference, for example you could have working groups thinking through innovative solutions to a defined, real-life business issue. At an industry event, they could look at broader, industry issues.


Mini-hackathons at networking events could be run in a similar way.

What’s interesting about the technological Hackathon phenomenon is that they often have an altruistic purpose, where a group of like-mined individuals with different skills come together to create technological innovations for the greater good. This is definitely something you can tap into. Whether it be planning a charitable event or a community project, those who find it difficult to loosen up at these types of events will be grateful for the opportunity to get stuck in and actually do something. They will end up showcasing their skills and credibility without the small talk that so many people find challenging.


  • Tell delegates of their topic in advance and give them a chance to prepare
  • Mix up the groups to include different demographics, management levels and skills
  • Have regular breaks to keep minds fresh and allow for further networking
  • Take responsibility yourself for driving and publicising their output
  • Keep in touch with the group afterwards and let them know how things are progressing

You could even brand this segment of the day like a hackathon – order Pizza and provide energy drinks. Have a prize giving at the end. You could even get T-shirts printed as memento!

Capturing the spirit of the hackathon at your event will not only give guests the opportunity to achieve something that really makes a difference – they’ll be making meaningful connections without even realizing it.

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