How to Organize a Virtual Hackathon: A Step-by-Step Guide

By Rad Aswani

Ready to make a global impact with your next hackathon? Welcome to the world of virtual hackathons, where you can harness the power of technology to bring together bright minds from all corners of the globe. In this blog post, we’ll guide you through the entire process of organizing a successful virtual hackathon, from setting goals and attracting participants to providing resources and support. Let’s dive in and discover how you can turn your hackathon into an unforgettable online event full of innovation and collaboration!

Key takeaways

  • Virtual hackathons offer cost-effectiveness, flexibility and collaboration.
  • This guide provides an overview of the steps to plan a successful virtual hackathon.
  • From selecting platforms to providing resources & support, ensure your event is engaging and fair for all participants.

The rise of virtual hackathons


In recent years, virtual hackathons have become increasingly popular, boasting several benefits over traditional in-person hackathons. Some of the primary benefits include:

Many hackathons are organized around specific themes and goals, such as intellectual property development, branding, or innovation. The careful planning and execution of these events can lead to a successful hackathon, resulting in improved collaboration, accelerated product or process improvement, and new perspectives on existing projects. Moreover, hackathons can foster a sense of camaraderie and creative energy among participants, making them an ideal environment for generating innovative solutions.

Not only are industries and organizations finding virtual hackathons advantageous, but non-profits and government entities are also jumping on board, making up more than 10% of such events. With the right set of rules, technical support, and communication methods, online hackathons can become a powerful tool for driving innovation, engaging the developer community, and future-proofing your organization.

Planning your virtual hackathon


A successful virtual hackathon starts with careful planning. You’ll need to determine the goals, theme, and target audience of your event to ensure that it aligns with your organization’s objectives and attracts the right participants.

Coming up, we will delve into each of these aspects, providing a comprehensive guide to curating a memorable, engaging, and productive virtual hackathon.

Setting goals

The first step to setting appropriate goals for your hackathon is to evaluate its purpose. Are you looking to drive innovation, recruit top talent, or boost employee engagement? For instance, an internal hackathon can be organized to engage employees and generate innovative ideas within the company. Once you’ve determined the overarching objectives, tailor your hackathon goals to align with these aims, such as intellectual property development, branding, or innovation.

To achieve these objectives, fostering an environment where participants can feel a sense of accomplishment and dedication towards the hackathon’s goals is key. This can be achieved through clear communication of the objectives, offering resources and support, and fostering a sense of ownership among participants.

Choosing a theme

A well-defined theme can significantly impact the quality and relevance of the solutions generated during your hackathon. By focusing participants’ efforts on specific challenges, a themed hackathon can lead to more innovative and applicable solutions to real-world problems. When selecting a theme, ensure it aligns with the objectives of your hackathon and encourages creative problem-solving.

Hackathon themes can be diverse, ranging from increasing brand visibility to designing a launch campaign for a new app or addressing a pressing social issue. Sub-themes can be incorporated to target specific challenges within the broader theme, further refining the focus of participants and contributing to the overall success of the event.

Defining the target audience

It is crucial to identify the desired participants for your hackathon as it allows you to form diverse teams enriched with a spectrum of skills and perspectives. Consider whether you want to target professionals, students, or specific industries when defining your target audience. Keep in mind the problem you’re trying to solve and the criteria for success, as this will help you attract the right participants.

The target audience for a virtual hackathon typically consists of individuals with expertise and enthusiasm in technology, programming, and problem-solving. By understanding your target audience and tailoring the event to their needs, you can ensure a successful and engaging hackathon experience for all involved.

Selecting the right platform


For a seamless and enjoyable experience, the choice of platform for your virtual hackathon is pivotal. When evaluating potential platforms, consider factors such as usability, scalability, security, and cost. Some popular platforms for online hackathons include Devpost, Hackerearth, Kaggle, Zindi, DataMeka, Devfolio, and MLH.

One platform that stands out for its collaborative features and support for virtual hackathons is Kumospace. By providing an immersive, interactive environment, Kumospace helps participants feel connected and engaged throughout the event. When selecting your platform, ensure it meets the needs of your hackathon and offers a smooth experience for both organizers and participants.

Kumospace: Enhancing Virtual Hackathons for Google Cloud Developers

Kumospace has emerged as a remarkable platform for hosting virtual hackathons, particularly shining as an online community hub for Google Cloud developers. Its interactive interface offers a virtual space that mimics real-life interactions, allowing participants to move freely in a digital environment, fostering collaboration and spontaneous networking. This is especially beneficial for hackathon events, where team dynamics and quick communication are key. 

For Google Cloud developers, Kumospace provides a unique opportunity to connect, share knowledge, and work collaboratively on cloud-based projects. The platform's integration with Google Cloud services enhances the user experience, making it seamless for developers to access tools and resources needed for their projects. Additionally, Kumospace's customizable rooms and avatars add a personal touch, encouraging engagement and making long virtual sessions more enjoyable. The result is a vibrant, interactive community where Google Cloud enthusiasts can innovate, learn, and grow together, transcending physical boundaries to create a truly global and connected ecosystem.

Assembling your organizing team


The success of your virtual hackathon hinges largely on your organizing team. Aim to assemble a diverse team with a range of skills and expertise, as this can enhance collaboration and creativity among organizers. New team members can bring fresh perspectives and ideas to the planning process, ensuring a well-rounded and engaging event.

To foster a sense of engagement and teamwork among people from different backgrounds and levels, here are some strategies to consider:

  • Avoid groupthink by encouraging diverse perspectives and ideas.
  • Create opportunities for networking and collaboration among employees from various departments.
  • Implement internal hackathons where employees can collaborate on innovative projects.

This approach can be particularly beneficial for internal hackathons, where employees from various departments collaborate on innovative projects.

Maintaining clear communication and fostering a sense of ownership among team members are crucial for ensuring their devotion to the hackathon’s goals and purpose. By following these guidelines, you can create a highly motivated organizing team that will work tirelessly to achieve your hackathon’s objectives.

Attracting participants and mentors


Promote your hackathon through various channels like social media, email blasts, and online event pages to attract a diverse group of participants and mentors. Engaging industry experts as mentors can provide valuable guidance and support to participants, further enhancing the appeal of your event.

In addition to attracting top talent, offering training workshops can help participants develop their skills and knowledge in specific areas relevant to the hackathon theme. This can be particularly beneficial for first-time participants or those looking to improve their understanding of new technologies.

By promoting your hackathon effectively and engaging industry experts as mentors, you’ll be able to attract a diverse range of participants, ultimately leading to a more innovative and successful event. Don’t forget to highlight the unique benefits of participating in a virtual hackathon, such as increased flexibility and the opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals from around the world.

Designing an engaging event schedule

Designing-an-engaging -event-schedule

Keeping participants engaged and motivated throughout the entire event requires a well-designed hackathon schedule. Be sure to include workshops, networking opportunities, and breaks to cater to different skill levels and interests. When designing your schedule, consider the duration of the event, the number of stages, the type of activities, and the timeline for each stage.

Incorporating a themed hackathon can help focus participants’ efforts on specific challenges and generate more relevant solutions. Additionally, scheduling regular check-ins throughout the event can facilitate a sense of community and allow teams to discuss their progress.

When designing your event schedule for online events, also take into account the unique challenges of an online event, such as time zones and accessibility. By creating an easily accessible and engaging schedule, you’ll ensure a positive experience for all participants and maximize the creative energy of your virtual hackathon.

Establishing clear rules and guidelines


To ensure a fair and transparent competition during your virtual hackathon, developing a set of clear rules and guidelines is indispensable. These rules should include submission requirements, judging criteria, and any relevant time constraints. By establishing clear regulations, you’ll create a level playing field for all participants and enhance the overall success of your event.

In addition to the competition guidelines, it’s important to establish a code of conduct that outlines expected behavior and guarantees a respectful and inclusive atmosphere for all participants. This can help foster a welcoming environment and encourage collaboration among diverse groups of participants.

As part of your guidelines, also consider any age restrictions or parental consent requirements for participants under 18. By addressing these factors in your rules and guidelines, you’ll create a well-organized and inclusive event that caters to a broad range of participants.

Providing resources and support


Participants’ success during the hackathon is highly dependent on their access to resources, tools, and mentorship. Ensure that they have access to:

  • Development environments
  • Debugging tools
  • Tutorials
  • Sample code
  • Other useful materials

Promote collaboration by providing access to digital platforms such as chat rooms and video conferencing. This can help participants connect with their teammates and mentors, exchange ideas, and work together effectively throughout the event.

In addition to technical resources, provide emotional support to participants in the form of encouragement and motivation. By offering comprehensive resources and support, you’ll empower participants to unleash their full potential and contribute to the overall success of your virtual hackathon.

Judging and awarding prizes


To ensure a fair and accurate assessment of the projects submitted during your virtual hackathon, it is essential to select a panel of judges with relevant expertise. When choosing judges, consider their knowledge and proficiency in the hackathon’s focus and objectives.

Prizes are an effective way to attract potential participants to take part in your event. They also act as an incentive to motivate people to join your event. However, it’s important to balance the potential benefits of cash prizes with the risk of fostering overly competitive behavior. Instead, consider offering resources that can help participants further develop their winning ideas, or create multiple categories of competition to reach a larger audience.

By selecting a highly qualified panel of judges and offering prizes that align with your hackathon’s theme and goals, you’ll create a fair and motivating competition that can lead to innovative solutions and lasting connections among participants. Attracting hackathon sponsors can also contribute to the event’s success by providing additional resources and support.

Post-event follow-up

Once your virtual hackathon concludes, sharing the results and gathering feedback from participants is a significant step. This can help you:

  • Improve future events
  • Maintain communication with participants
  • Foster long-term connections
  • Track the progress of winning ideas

Consider the following steps to improve your virtual hackathon process:

  1. Distribute a post-event survey to collect feedback from participants.
  2. Send follow-up emails to participants to stay connected and provide updates on the outcomes of the hackathon.
  3. Learn from each event and use the feedback to refine your virtual hackathon process.
  4. Implement the lessons learned to create even more successful events in the future.

By maintaining communication and learning from each event, you’ll continue to refine your virtual hackathon process and create even more successful events in the future.


In conclusion, organizing a successful virtual hackathon requires careful planning and execution. From setting goals and selecting a theme to providing resources and support, each step of the process is crucial for creating an engaging and innovative event. As you embark on your virtual hackathon journey, remember to foster a sense of community and collaboration among participants, and continuously learn from each event to refine your process. With the right approach, your virtual hackathon can become a powerful tool for driving innovation and connecting with like-minded individuals from around the world.

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Headshot for Rad Aswani
Rad Aswani

Rad has over 7 years of experience in Marketing. Currently, she is the fun Digital Marketer at Kumospace. She leads initiatives such as influencer marketing, SEO management, and social media to name a few. Outside of work, Rad enjoys traveling, working out, and spending time with her family and friends.

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