Skip to content

How to prepare for your first hackathon3 min read

After a bunch of courses, several personal projects and a hundred sleepless nights you are finally confident enough to join your first Hackathon. You applied for a spot and a couple of days later got accepted. Congrats! But now what?

Participating in a Hackathon, especially for the first time, is as much an exciting experience as a stressful one. However, there are 9 things to keep in mind that can help you be more prepared for the next 24-48h of coding.

1. Gather the team

Getting a good team together for a Hackathon is half the work for a great experience. Even if you don’t have a lot of friends willing to code all weekend, most Hackathons offer team matching events not only meant to find a team but also to network with fellow coders. Use this chance to practice your communication skills to highlight your prowess to teams and even potential employers.

It is generally recommended to have a diverse team of 4 with the following skills:

  • Market research/sales – will validate the idea and identify the potential market of the idea.
  • Front-end developer – Will work on the design of the website or app.
  • Back-end developer – Will do the number crunching in the background so you can brag about your idea using AI or Blockchain.
  • UI/UX Designer – Can be the front-end developer but usually, it’s a separate person.

You can get by with a smaller team but I advise against making the team bigger than 4. It becomes a managing nightmare in a Hackathon’s fast-paced environment.

2. Do your research

The moment you register, you’ll probably get blasted with emails from the organizer detailing the rules and the program of the event. Take an hour to learn more about the rules, the scoring system if there is one and the previous year challenges.

Extra points if you take some time to learn more about the partners. It is a chance to get inspired and better understand how to cater your solution to their needs.

3. Prepare your coding environment

This step is often overlooked but too often the team wastes precious time waiting for one of the developers to install the new IDE update or waiting for a random Windows update that takes too long.

Think about what packages and languages you are going to use and update the software needed.

It is also a good idea to prepare a fresh project or a website’s skeleton to save time during the hack.

4. Prepare your GitHub

If you haven’t yet, set up your GitHub account! It is crucial for logins in accounts you might use for virtualizations or cloud computing during the Hackathon. You could also use it for version control if the other programmer you collaborate with is comfortable.

In the end, you will want or even be required to post your source code on GitHub so be prepared ahead of time.

5. Take time to explore the community

When you get a break from coding try talking to fellow hackers in the Discord or walk around if you are not in 2021. You can meet some great people and participate in small mini-events that offer some great goodies as mementoes.

6. Get everything charged

CHARGE! Charge everything ahead of time even if you are at home. You don’t want to get caught off guard by a dying laptop or phone. Don’t forget to update your team if you are going to tap out to recharge (I had this when coding from a hotel lobby with no chargers nearby). It is extremely frustrating to get ghosted by a teammate mid competition.

7. Be realistic and assume the worst

When brainstorming it is very compelling to become a “yes” man as a coder. You don’t want to let the team down and want to prove yourself but take a step back and get the basics down first.

Concentrate on the MVP (minimum viable product) and put the extra features on the back burner. Let’s be honest, you probably don’t want to experiment with that new shiny framework you discovered during a Hackathon.

Go for what you are good at and do it well. Something will break and you want to spend the minimum amount of time debugging so use tech stacks and languages you are comfortable with.

8. Get some sleep

Before, during and after the challenge. Don’t cut sleep out completely! Get prepared with a good rest before the coding starts and keep yourself fresh by sleeping for a few hours the first night.

This is a marathon, not a sprint. Save up your energy for the final part of the Hackathon when bugs start creeping and you need to be on top of your game.

9. It’s not (really) a competition

Sure, there are prizes on the line but that is not the point. Keep in mind that you are not in a competitive programming competition. The best code doesn’t necessarily win, while impressive, using cutting edge technology doesn’t necessarily secure the win. Don’t stress about other devs being better than you or using more interesting technologies.

You have the opportunity to learn from them and get better at what YOU are good at.


Here it is, my suggestions on how you can prepare for your first Hackathon. Remember that, above all, you need to have fun. Make sure you “steal” as much experience and knowledge as possible while enjoying your time coding with a talented team!

Happy coding and a good day!

Share online:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *