Top 6 Tips for Hackathon Success

We asked some of our seasoned participants what they thought it took to be successful at a hackathon. While there is no single winning formula (that we know of), the following six tips will definitely steer you in the right direction.


It is crucial to do your homework prior to attending the event. We recommend:

  • Researching problem sets
  • Thoroughly reading event documentation
  • Figuring out which resources you need to source and bring along
  • Asking for clarification of uncertainties

This way, when the event starts you can get down to providing a solution straight away.


Without the right people on your team, you’re sure to be disadvantaged. We advise attending the hackathon as a diverse team whose skills match the problem set. Generally speaking, it helps to have: coding specialists, presentation skills, data analytics competencies, engineering capabilities, good interpersonal skills (to communicate with mentors) and business acumen. A diverse team can also come up with a creative workaround to any roadblocks you may face.


Ask the mentors as many questions as possible to gain greater understanding of the underlying problem. Interview them regarding each of the problems, then gauge which problem you would like to pursue. One approach is to spend the majority of the time trying to best comprehend the problem, then the remainder of the time coming up with an innovative solution.


“See how you can take that idea and make it into a product. How does this fit into their existing pipeline? If you can find a solution that is better, but not drastically different from what they currently do, all the better” – John Vial, Hackathon Expert.




It helps to pick a challenge that really interests you. Think to yourself: would you want to continue working on this solution after the hackathon? Remember that you are there to have fun. It’s a competition, but it’s also a place to experiment, meet interesting people, learn something new and build a solution from scratch.


The presentation of your solution is critical to your success. You should look to:

  • Start preparing your pitch deck early
  • Watch videos of good pitches for inspiration and ideas
  • Keep the problem description and team introduction short
  • Focus on the bottom line impact of your solution to the business
  • Make the most of your prototype presentation


As the old adage goes – if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. In order to truly understand the processes involved in a hackathon event, you need to attend more than once.

Happy hacking!

For more information on upcoming Unearthed events, check out our hackathons page.