Hackathon Presenter Tips.

The culminating session of any hackathon is pitching: The part where you get to share what you have been working on. Though this is important, many people do not win because, among many things, they neglect to be ready for it.

In all my experiences of being in the judging panel, judges look for the credibility and likeability of the team. Likeability is relative. The credibility part, you can get away with and score 100(Seen this many times).

Having sat in many judging sessions, I can reveal the following about these sessions:

1. Let your pitch be understandable.

the-climate-reality-project-349094-unsplash.jpg Photo by The Climate Reality Project on Unsplash

  • Be clear in describing what you built and how it works.
  • Avoid jargon as much as possible. Not all judges are technical so try to create a balance between technical words and non-technical words.
  • Keep it as simple as you can when talking about your solution. The rule of thumb here is that a 6-year-old should be able to understand you.
  • Avoid showing the code you have written unless asked to do so. What you do here is show how unprepared you are. In addition, you are also confusing the business people. They think that the solution does not work. Finally, as developers, we all know what happens with live demos. :)

2. Have energy when delivering your pitch

pitching002-jason-rosewell-60014-unsplash.jpg Photo by Jason Rosewell on Unsplash

  • Have energy as you present. the judges are looking at who among the teams are excited about their solution.
  • The delivery of your pitch matters too: Choose the one with great presentation ability,
  • Everyone always wants to hang around big people.
  • Even if you have been coding for 24 Hours without sleep, try to be as excited and full of energy as possible.
  • Boring presenters make the judges doubt their ability and solution and will poke holes at it.

3. Presentation

pitching001-Frank tamre pic from unsplash.jpg Photo credit: Teemu Paananen on Unsplash (Karri Saarinen presenting at Nordic Design)

  • How different are you from the other presenters: You are being judged against others. The judges should remember you.
  • Your slides are important. Do a good job designing them.
  • Avoid more than 10 words in a slide if you can, The judges with either read your slide or listen to you as you present.
  • Rehearse your presentation. Practice makes perfect.
  • Use the time wisely. If you have 5 minutes, Its little time, use it wisely to cover all that is needed in the presentation.
    • Be audible.
    • It is a conversation that you are having with the judges.

4. Big Picture

  • Is it something you plan to build a post-event talk. (most events take this post-event approach)
  • Talk about the business side of your solution. How do you see it being used in the market? Be realistic and ambitious at the same time in your estimate numbers.
  • There are non-business people in the judging team.
  • What would happen if you were to launch it? What are the next steps?


pithcing004-frank-Tamre-charles-1208669-unsplash.jpg Photo by Charles 🇵🇭 on Unsplash

  • Demonstrate the strengths of what you’ve developed.
  • Make sure it works!
  • Combine a demo with PowerPoint if this helps you get your idea across. But balance time in between the two.
  • Make sure the demo is included within the presentation time. You do not want to have your teammates scrambling to get the demo visible and working at the same time!

Do you have any other tips to add? Or experience from attending various hackathons? share your ideas below!

Comments (2)

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Harun Wangereka's photo

In addition to the above, I have a couple of lessons learned from presenting in different hackathons and pitches. I lost in most of them, came close to winning in some and also won a few.

One is work on showing the business aspect of your solution,like the business can sustain itself even without additional funds. This goes well with a good business model. Many are used to subscription based or Pay As You Go models or even adverts based models. A good research in this can see you coming up with a well working business model rather than going for the default ones which every contestant will use. Also avoid saying that you will sell data to other companies for you to generate revenue.

You should also demonstrate that your solution has a ready market for it or what is called traction.

Then also try to give stories using common problems that people face, this way it will be easier for the judges to relate with your solution. Try and show how your solution addresses common problems like access to savings,loans and credit facilities that the mid level person has no access to this are just examples, you can use problems that are there are try and see how your solution will fit in

Show that you have a well laid out plan of where you started,where you are and your next plans of action, it helps to show that its something you have been working on it for a while and not just for the competition

While a demo might be good ..do not focus on it solely..it should come as a by the way..work on your presentation skills and the business language. In the pitches and hackathons that I have attended, I usually get very close only for the judges to tell me later on that you had an amazing demo, actually the best demo among all the contestants but you were lacking the business aspect in your solution. Comments like these makes you realize that in as much as you are not a business oriented person, you have to know some of these things or have someone help you draft a business model for your solution.

One other thing.. don't fix your solution to the goals of the competition, when you do this, you will start with solution X and end up with solution Z at the end of the competition,stick to your plan and your solution will stand out from the rest. Am not saying you ignore what your mentors or guides in the hackathon are saying but you have to be wise in choosing what to implement and what not to.

Demonstrate that you have done your research well. One of the common mistakes people make is sign up for a hackathon an few hours to the pitch, come up with a solution and except to win. This never happens in most of the scenarios. Am speaking from experience. With a good research comes data. With this data, you can come up with different solutions and decisions using this data. Use the data to know patterns and how your target population behaves. For example if you are making an advertisement solution, it would be good to have the data for the spending habits of your target population. Are they 'big spender' or 'less spenders'. It would be rather pointless to develop your solution of expensive products advertisements to a 'less spenders' population target. Chances are that the solution will not be of any help to the target population. That is where the research and data collection comes in handy. Show that you have the figures. You can even add chats and graphs. It would boost your presentation a lot.

Have information about other companies doing what you are trying to do,show what competitive advantage you have or they have. Also try to show why your solution should exist while there is already another solution in the market. Ideas will never be unique but your implementation might be different from your competitors and that's usually what the judges are looking for.

Frank Tamre's photo

RDD @ EarlyCamp

Thanks Harun