Six Weeks to the Hackathon!

The date is set for our parent engagement hackathon, so we’ve hit the ground running! Planning a large event like this is no easy task, so we’re breaking it up into smaller steps to make it more manageable and to ensure that we don’t overlook important pieces. Here are some of the key aspects we’re focusing on this week:

Securing a Venue

If you’ve ever planned a wedding or large party, you know that almost everything depends on finding the right venue. A space to host your hackathon will be your biggest and likely most inflexible resource, so it’s best not to advertise the hackathon date until the venue’s availability has been confirmed.

Luckily for us, we’ve got a fabulous space right here at our station. The WGBH studios include state-of-the-art events spaces where private and community events are held regularly. Supporting these facilitates is a fantastic team of public media folks, so we know we’re in good hands! The studios are also accessible by bus, have plenty of parking available, and are wheelchair accessible—all important factors to consider when looking for the right space.

Setting Up Online Registration

Now that we have the space and date set, we’re eager to start signing up participants. The WGBH events team recommended that we use Eventbrite, an online service for creating and promoting events. Our hackathon event is free to attend, so using Eventbrite to manage registration is free. And super easy! Setting up the event takes minutes if you have all of the necessary information ready to go.

We started to create the event but realized we still needed to answer questions like:

  • How many tickets should be available? As much as we would love to have everyone who wants to participate attend the hackathon, we know there’s a limit to how many participants we can actually accommodate. But we also know that not everyone who signs up for an event actually shows up, so we need to pad that number somewhat. And we’re looking for an even distribution of parents, teachers, healthcare professionals, designers, and developers, so we’ve decided to separate tickets into those categories. That way, when it gets to be crunch time, we can see where we’re short and focus our recruitment efforts on that particular category of attendees.
  • How much detail should we provide? We’ve been circulating a proposed agenda internally, but we’re not ready yet to share it with our participants because it may change between now and the event. On the other hand, we want to provide enough details so that participants know enough about what they’re signing up for to know if it’s a good fit.
  • What should the hackathon be called? Although we’ve been referring to it as the “parent engagement hackathon”, we know that a snazzier name could make it more enticing for participants. Brainstorming a new name has shown us that striking the right balance between informative and enticing can be very tricky…
Finding a Partner

We’re looking for an organization that can co-host the hackathon with us. Ideally, that partner organization would provide skills and experience that are different from and therefore complement our strengths. Identifying and bringing on partners is always a challenge, but is also an opportunity for immense growth! We definitely recommend securing a partnership early in the process, and even if partners need to bow out, be understanding and use that as an opportunity to meet another partner in the community!

Needless to say, it’s been a busy few weeks. In the next week we’re going to turn our attention to spreading the word about the event and recruiting participants, as well as sorting out what resources we need (food, supplies, volunteers, and so on). Check back in a few days for more updates on our planning process!

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