Planning a Virtual Hackathon: A Step-by-Step Guide

By Rad Aswani

Are you looking for an innovative way to foster collaboration, drive creativity, and propel your organization forward? Look no further than the Virtual Hackathon - the perfect blend of competition, innovation, and teamwork, all conducted remotely. In this blog post, we’ll guide you through the exciting world of virtual hackathons and provide practical advice on planning and executing a successful event.

From understanding the different types of Virtual Hackathon events to assembling a strong team, promoting your event, and ensuring a seamless virtual experience, we’ve got you covered. Get ready to unleash the power of virtual hackathons and transform your organization’s ability to innovate and adapt in today’s fast-paced world.

Short Summary

  • Plan your virtual hackathon for success by setting objectives, choosing the right platform and timeline.
  • Build a strong team with diverse skills & mentor guidance to engage participants in an inspiring environment.
  • Overcome challenges like communication barriers & time zone differences through clear instructions and incentives.

The rise of virtual hackathons


Virtual hackathons have captured the attention of organizations and individuals alike, providing an exciting way to drive innovation and collaboration from a distance. With unique opportunities and challenges, these online events have grown in popularity, offering increased community engagement and a chance to explore a wide array of hackathon ideas. The benefits of virtual hackathons are not limited to external events, as internal hackathons can reap the benefits of increased inclusivity, agile product development, and improved employee engagement.

In the following sections, we will delve into the different types of virtual hackathons, theme-based, technology-focused, and open innovation events, each with its own goals and target audience. By understanding these categories, you can tailor your virtual hackathon to better align with your organization’s needs and objectives.

Types of virtual hackathons


Virtual hackathons come in various flavors, including theme-based, technology-focused, and open innovation events. Each type of hackathon offers unique opportunities and challenges, catering to different goals and audiences. A successful hackathon can be achieved by selecting the right format and theme that aligns with the participants’ interests and objectives. It is also important to host your virtual hackathon on a collaborative platform, like Kumospace. 

In the next few sections, we’ll explore these types of hackathons in more detail, helping you choose the right format for your event.

Theme-based hackathons


Theme-based hackathons focus on specific topics or industries, encouraging participants to develop innovative solutions within that context. These events provide a structured environment for participants to work on a particular problem, driving the development of high-quality and relevant solutions that truly make an impact. Some inspiring examples of theme-based hackathons include corporate hackathons, creating a new startup, developing a new app for disaster management, and designing a launch campaign.

Combining themed and technology hackathons can lead to even more exciting opportunities. Subject matter experts can identify problems in their field, turning them into workable technology projects, while participants can apply their skills and learn about the hackathon’s theme. This approach can be especially beneficial in internal hackathons, fostering innovation and collaboration within an organization.

Technology-focused hackathons

In technology-focused hackathons, the spotlight is on using specific programming languages, APIs, or structures to implement unique and innovative ideas in software development. Providing technical support to participants can help them overcome challenges and develop better solutions. Examples of technology-focused hackathons include exploring the potential of AI and automation, creating realistic 3D simulation systems, and developing user-friendly tools for web development.

The power of innovation in technology is exemplified by the prototype of AI-powered drones, which has shown great potential and is continuing to evolve for better usage. These events allow participants to showcase their technical skills and contribute to groundbreaking projects that can shape the future of technology.

Open innovation events

Open innovation events invite participants to explore any idea or project, fostering creativity and collaboration across multiple disciplines. By leveraging external resources and ideas, including those provided by hackathon sponsors, these events drive innovation and tackle challenging problems. Examples of open innovation existing projects include the “Remote Access to Resources” project, which empowers users to access their digital data from any location, and the “Additional Resources Locator” project, which uncovers resources connected to digital IDs. These events are a great source of project ideas for participants.

Embracing the spirit of open innovation can lead to the discovery of new ideas and groundbreaking solutions that push the boundaries of what’s possible, providing participants with the freedom to explore any project, and igniting the creative spark that leads to true innovation.

Planning your virtual hackathon


Now that you have a better understanding of the different types of virtual hackathons, it’s time to start planning your event. In the following sections, we’ll discuss the crucial aspects of planning a virtual hackathon.

Setting clear objectives is essential for any successful event. This includes deciding on the type of hackathon, the target audience, and the desired outcomes.

Selecting an appropriate one is important.

Setting objectives

Before diving into the details of your virtual hackathon, it’s essential to establish the goals and desired outcomes for the event. By setting an inspiring end goal and creating a set of rules to ensure your event stays on track, you’ll have a clear vision to guide the hackathon’s structure and organization. Choosing a focused brief allows your team to brainstorm possible hackathon ideas and projects that will help achieve the event’s goal.

When assembling your hackathon team, aim for a diverse mix of skills and expertise to maximize collaboration and creativity. The ideal team size for a hackathon is around six people, ensuring that hackathon objectives are met and participants have a rewarding experience. By giving everyone the opportunity to form a team and collaborate on hackathon ideas, you’ll create an environment that fosters innovation and problem-solving.

Selecting a platform

Choosing the right platform for your virtual hackathon is critical for a smooth and successful event. Platforms like Kumospace, Kaggle, HackerEarth, and Devpost offer the necessary tools and resources for hosting an online hackathon, including collaboration tools, communication tools, and project management tools. When selecting a platform, consider features such as ease of use, cost, and other factors that are important to you.

Ultimately, the platform you choose should equip you to reach your hackathon objectives while staying within your budget. By providing participants with a seamless virtual experience, you’ll ensure that they can focus on developing innovative hackathon ideas and collaborating effectively.

Defining the timeline

Establishing a timeline for your virtual hackathon is crucial for keeping participants engaged and on track. Ideally, plan your event 3 to 6 months in advance, allowing ample time to secure hackathon sponsors, plan logistics, and promote the event. The actual duration of the hackathon can vary, but a typical timeframe is around two months or between 24-72 hours, with 48 hours being the most common duration.

When creating your timeline, include key milestones, deadlines, and event schedules to ensure that participants have a clear understanding of what’s expected of them. By providing a well-defined timeline, you’ll help participants manage their time effectively and stay focused on their hackathon ideas.

Building a strong team


Assembling a strong team, including new team members, is crucial for a successful virtual hackathon. By bringing together individuals with diverse skills and expertise, you’ll create an environment that fosters collaboration, innovation, and problem-solving. Consider restricting entries to certain departments, specific roles, or including different levels of seniority to ensure the ideal mix of skills for the hackathon.

Mentors can also play a key role in supporting participants during the hackathon, providing valuable insights and advice. By offering guidance and resources, mentors can help participants unlock their potential and succeed in the hackathon, ensuring that your event meets its objectives and delivers a rewarding experience for all involved.

Engaging participants and promoting your event


To attract and engage participants, promote your virtual hackathon through various channels, including social media, email, and online communities. Share information about your event, its goals, and the exciting opportunities it offers to entice potential participants and generate buzz around the hackathon.

During the event, keep participants engaged by providing them with helpful resources, such as tutorials, challenges, training workshops, and other engaging activities. By offering a supportive and motivating environment, you’ll encourage participants to fully immerse themselves in the hackathon experience and achieve their best work.

Supporting participants during the event


Providing ongoing support to participants during the virtual hackathon is essential for a successful event. Offer technical assistance to help participants troubleshoot any issues they may encounter, ensuring that they can focus on developing innovative hackathon ideas. Additionally, having mentors available during the hackathon can provide invaluable support and guidance to those taking part.

Don’t forget the importance of keeping participants energized and motivated during the event. Provide snacks and drinks to keep everyone fueled and focused on their projects. By offering a range of resources and support, you’ll help participants make the most of the hackathon and reach their full potential.

Judging criteria and prizes


Establishing clear judging criteria is crucial for a fair and rewarding virtual hackathon experience. Focus on the following criteria to ensure that the competition accurately reflects the participants’ efforts and achievements:

  1. Innovation: Evaluate the uniqueness and creativity of the project idea.
  2. Technical Achievement: Assess the technical complexity and proficiency demonstrated in the project.
  3. Application: Consider the practicality and potential impact of the project in real-world scenarios.

By defining these judging criteria, you’ll provide participants with a clear understanding of what’s expected of them and how their projects will be evaluated.

Offering relevant prizes can serve as a strong motivator for participants and recognize their achievements. Cash prizes, internships, or product discounts are just a few examples of prizes that can inspire participants to put their best efforts into the hackathon. By providing enticing rewards, you’ll encourage participants to push their creative boundaries and strive for excellence in their projects.

Post-hackathon follow-up


After the virtual hackathon, it’s important to follow up with participants to gather feedback, share event highlights, and track the progress of winning projects. Reach out to participants to thank them for their participation, share photos of the event, and provide a recap of the winners. By staying connected with participants, you’ll strengthen your community and lay the groundwork for future hackathons.

Gathering feedback from participants is essential for improving your next hackathon. Use surveys or direct communication to collect opinions on what went well and what could be improved. By learning from your participants, you’ll be able to refine your approach and ensure that your future events are even more successful.

Adapting in-person hackathons to a virtual format


Transitioning from an in-person hackathon to a virtual format presents unique challenges and opportunities. Careful planning and consideration are needed to ensure that the remote collaboration experience is smooth and effective. As you adapt your hackathon to a virtual format, consider the communication barriers, time zone differences, and participant engagement issues that may arise, and develop strategies for addressing them.

By embracing the unique aspects of online hackathons, you can create an engaging and innovative event that retains the spirit of in-person hackathons while leveraging the flexibility and reach of online platforms. With thoughtful planning and execution, your virtual hackathon can be an inspiring and rewarding experience for all involved.

Overcoming common challenges in virtual hackathons


Virtual hackathons present common challenges, such as communication barriers, time zone differences, and participant engagement. Addressing these issues is crucial for ensuring a successful event. Overcome communication barriers by recognizing and respecting language barriers, cultural differences, and striving to understand each other’s ideas. Develop creative solutions for scheduling meetings, coordinating tasks, and ensuring that all participants are available at the same time to tackle time zone differences.

Keeping participants engaged during a virtual hackathon can be challenging, but by providing clear instructions, setting achievable goals, and offering incentives, you can maintain motivation and focus throughout the event. Additionally, having access to support and resources can help ensure that participants remain energized and inspired during the hackathon, ready to tackle any challenges that arise.


In this blog post, we’ve explored the exciting world of virtual hackathons and provided practical advice on planning and executing a successful event. By understanding the different types of hackathons, setting clear objectives, selecting the right platform, assembling a strong team, and providing ongoing support, you can create a rewarding virtual experience for all participants.

As you embark on your virtual hackathon journey, remember that the key to success lies in fostering collaboration, innovation, and problem-solving. With careful planning and execution, your virtual hackathon can be the catalyst for transformative ideas and lasting connections that will propel your organization forward in today’s fast-paced world.

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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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