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What to look out for when transitioning to an online Hackathon

This month has been crazy. I think I've counted at least 10 Hackathons around 7 countries (Egypt, Palestine, Morocco, Australia, US, UK, Estonia) which we've helped supported. Normally there is only 1 or 2 Hackathons every weekend in Australia but this world-wide scale has really hit us!!

Everyone is rushing to do last minute prep and I can see hundreds of people pre-planning for their next interactive online experiences. So what have I learnt so far?

1.Know exactly your intentions (and others' too!) When it comes to creating an online experience, you need to be intentional, and bring everyone on the journey - sponsors, partners, participants, mentors, judges. Every-single-Hackathon-is-about-Covid-19… so how will you differentiate your online event to others? What is your unique value proposition? It all comes down to

knowing exactly who your target audience

so that you are gathering a tribe of like-minded people - whether it be to educating high schooleres on certain skills, recruiting talented graduates, investing in budding entrepreneurs to invite to accelerator programs, or onboarding eager learners to teach them about your tech.

2. Know the potential of your tools Digital tools are hitting us right, front and centre. We know Zoom has gained a lot of traction, Houseparty is engaging and sucks out a lot of battery, Slack is turning into a major communications platform, and LIVE streaming is a real hit, as well as the hilarious Tik Tok videos. Having these applications are one thing but

the real value is knowing how to get the most out of your digital tools

Therefore you need to be curious. On Slack, there is a 'Donut' app where it links you with someone randomly every 2 weeks. On Zoom, you can integrate Snapchat cameras and use filters. The possibilities are endless, so use features that are impactful and boost engagement for your communities.

3. Be mindful of time zone differences Holding an event virtually across hundreds of countries is complicated. Organising meetings, teeing time with mentors, locking in your judges, making sure your participants are engaged.. the list goes on. Be conscious of the health and wellbeing of your stakeholders. I'm seeing a lot of people sleeping in the early hours of the morning and waking up in the middle of day for weeks! Try not to burnout your body and

allow yourself to rest, even after an adrenaline rush

Remember that the most important thing for us is health, especially with COVID-19 spreading like wildfire!

 4. Be mindful of different cultures Every country has its unique strengths and differences so develop a deep sense of empathy. You need to start off on a clean slate when conversing with people around the world and the best thing to do right now is to hold face-to-face calls so you can read facial expressions and body language.

Build an experience that never sleeps

Build an experience that never sleeps so that you can have peace of mind. For example Australians are generally quite laid back, whereas in India everyone works 24/7. During a Hackathon in Australia, you might want to start your workshops at 10am, instead of making people dial in at 7am.. or even better, do a pre-recording and upload it so it's available around the clock.

 5. Spell everything out When it comes to acronyms, interpretations, slangs and phrases, it's best to spell-it-out or define what it means. Yes, meetings will go on for longer so make sure you leave at least 15 minutes in between meetings and stay focused to complete only 1 or 2 key tasks. And when it comes to conducting meetings and running workshops, always do a pulse check so you understand how everyone is feeling because each person should leave the session more energized, more educated, and more entertained than the start.

These are just a couple of things I've noticed when transitioning to online experiences. What have been your observations?

For more trends on moving conversations, events and hackathons online, I'll be creating an eLearning module on 'How to convert your Hackathon process Online'.

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