Organizing MadHacks Fall 2023 Reflections thumbnail

Organizing MadHacks Fall 2023 Reflections

November 11, 2023David Teather

Table of Contents

I was one of the lead organizers for MadHacks Fall 2023, a 24-hour hackathon at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The amount of effort and time that went into planning and executing this was absurd, so I wanted to write a blog post about it and hopefully inspire others to organize more events like this, but hopefully with less stress and better tools and advice for the job.

I might be out of the hackathon organizing scene now, but if you’ve organized hackathons and have advice I’d definitely write a blog post of your own about everything you learned so that others can learn from it :D

My Role

I was unofficially the lead organizer of the event and did pretty much everything except for: judging plans (thanks Sam), day-of event logistics, catering, and taxes (thanks Grace).

However, I did:

The Planning

In this section I’ll try to break down the planning and execution of the event into different segments by the different segments of planning.

Getting a Venue

Luckily we get venue for free since we’re a school organization. So I’m not going to comment on it too much.

What I would do differently:

Getting Sponsorship

I was the main person to reach out to sponsors and to get them to give money, swag, or discounts to the event.

What I did:

I mainly used my LinkedIn premium messages to reach out to companies employees and try to get the direct email of who is in charge of sponsorships at companies that had already sponsored MadHacks before, or other hackathons on Devpost, and just local companies around Madison.

Honestly this was a bit of a nightmare and a grind to get companies to both respond to me and actually be interested in sponsoring. We ended up sending out more than 125 total messages to get in total 9 sponsors, of which 1 was a local company that was growing (Fetch Rewards), 1 had sponsored before (Epic Systems), 3 were almost guaranteed to sponsor (MLH, GitHub through GitHub Education, and AWS Cloud Clubs), 1 was our school, 1 was a company that gave us discount through MLH (StandOut Stickers), and 2 were non donating clubs/orgs that were running workshops (Girls Who Code, and UPL which organized the event).

So in total we got like ~$7,000 in directly from sponsor outreach, luckily we had ~6-7k as left over from previous events. Otherwise, we would have been in a bit of a pickle.

What I learned:

What I would do differently:

Ok that’s probably the longest section of this blog post, I’ll try to keep the rest of the sections shorter.

Marketing

Luckily for this event we were reusing the same graphics and branding that someone the previous semester made because nobody wanted to design new graphics and I wasn’t going to make an entirely new design for the event because I was already too busy so we kept with the same design.

What I did

What I learned:

What I would do differently:

Applications

This is about sort of the internal hidden application process which was not fun and super annoying.

What I did:

What I learned:

What I would do differently:

Workshops

We also decided that we should run more workshops than compared to the previous semester. Since the previous semester it was just one workshop that I ran on web scraping.

What I did:

What I learned:

What I would do differently:

Photo Booth

Ok this is a project that I attempted that did not work well enough to be used at the event but I think it’s worth mentioning.

What I did:

What I learned:

What I would do differently:

The Event Itself

This segment is about the day of the event.

Problems:

Overall though the event went pretty smooth outside of that and we had a lot of great projects and a lot of great sponsors and mentors. Although I did wish that we had more mentors to help out with the projects as I kept getting asked for help but also had to do a lot of other things at the same time which felt bad leaving someone I was helping to go do something else related to running the event.

Our Leadership Structure / Role Distribution

This section is about the leadership structure and how we failed to distribute roles and responsibilities in a great way.

Context

What We Did:

What I would do differently:

Conclusion

I know this was a long blog post and it might’ve come across as I was complaining a lot about what went wrong, but I think it’s important to document what went wrong and what we could’ve done better so that we can learn from it in the future.

I thought the event went pretty great and tons of people had a great time and made some great projects and that’s what’s most important and I hope that going forward we can make the event even better and more organized and less stressful for the organizers.

Some photos from the event :D

MadHacks Fall 2023

MadHacks Fall 2023

MadHacks Fall 2023

MadHacks Fall 2023

MadHacks Fall 2023

MadHacks Fall 2023

MadHacks Fall 2023

MadHacks Fall 2023

MadHacks Fall 2023

MadHacks Fall 2023

MadHacks Fall 2023

MadHacks Fall 2023

MadHacks Fall 2023

MadHacks Fall 2023

MadHacks Fall 2023

MadHacks Fall 2023

I wanted to thank the most important people the attendees for making MadHacks Fall 2023 a great event and I hope to see you all at the next one!

Back to Blog