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What it takes to organise a Hackathon

App Team NITH, a club from NIT Hamirpur recently hosted the institute's biggest Hackathon till date and probably North India's second biggest after IIIT Allahabad's Hack in the North.
We called the event, HackOnHills.

I was extremely fortunate to be a part of the organizing team, since I was very much looking forward to doing something big apart from coding. So let me just enlist certain facts about HackOnHills:
1. About 250-300 students participated in the Hackathon
2. More than 1000 registrations were done for HackOnHills in total
3. A total of 24 sponsors were involved in making the event a success

A major credit of this entire success goes to Sukhbir Singh, Jalaz Kumar, Narendra Dodwaria and Nitin Sharma, my college seniors in their final years of B. Tech and Dual Degree.

We began the preparation much before the actual event, about 5 months ago. I remember just before the Semester Examinations, a meeting was called to decide how we'd go about sponsorships.

Phase 1: Sponsorships

 At the time of the meeting, I felt like this was the most exciting part. I would get to network with so many people from different companies, and most importantly, they won't be from my own field. They'd be from the marketing department, or just from the HR.
Just after the exams got over, I started writing mails to many companies. We had a budget for HackOnHills which we wanted to achieve, and we had been listing companies which we thought 'could' sponsor us. Now we had to see if they actually 'would'.
Our seniors sent us templates to write on mails while emailing companies directly. As for companies that had a sponsorship form, we just had to fill that to request for sponsorships.
At first, all we received was In-Kind Sponsorship.

In-Kind Sponsorship is the kind of sponsorship where the organizations don't pay us money, but give us goodies (or stickers) to give to the participants so they can promote their product.

However, because of Sukhbir Singh, we got an extremely huge leap, and that was the sponsorship from Github. 
Github is the leading open-source promoter, and probably the most used site by developers, after StackOverFlow, of course! But sponsorship from Github meant a huge deal for 3 reasons:
1. It is an extremely famous organization and seeing its name would attract more sponsors.
2. It was recently acquired by Microsoft, so an even bigger and promising company is behind it. To put it in a journalist sort-of way, Microsoft was sponsoring us!
3. As soon as we start promoting our event as "Github presents..." many good student developers from outside NIT would start taking notice of the event.

Participation and Sponsorships form an intertwined cycle: More participation would mean more companies looking to invest in the event to promote their products, and more companies would mean more student developers taking notice of our event.

Being the overly ambitious moron that I am, I listed quite a lot of bigger companies for our Hackathon like Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Mozilla. But the seniors didn't really stop me; because that's how it's done! You just have to dream, and you never know when people might actually agree to sponsor you, irrespective of how far your college is, or how your students are! Sometimes it becomes a game of chance.
Anyway, we later got to know that companies like Amazon and Google don't really sponsor events. For Google, we needed a Google Campus Star or something of that sort to actually even get to talks with them about the Hackathon.
Anyway, it's not like there weren't other organizations. Apart from all organizations which don't have sponsorships in their policy, we listed the ones which we thought we had a chance with. And the list went up to 200 companies!
Yes, we actually sent out requests to 200 companies, and out of those, we had 24 official sponsors.
I'm really disappointed to say, that of the companies I sent out the e-mails to, none of them are in the final sponsorship list. Yes, organizations don't really respond, and that's what happened with most of the Sophomores sending requests. There's a reason this happened with us, but I'll come back to it later.
By this time, I was questioning myself about my contributions and my importance in the team. I literally didn't get anyone!

Tech Speakers

Fast forward to January, and I get an e-mail from a guy named Santosh Vishwanatham. He introduced himself as a Mozilla Tech Speaker and told me that he would speak on either of 2 topics:
1. Cross Platform Browser Extensions
2. Virtual Reality

Woah, woah woah! Too many important things to process! First, a Mozilla Tech Speaker sends me an e-mail, Mozilla! Then he mentions two things he is an expert in and wants to speak about which I had no IDEA about! Hell, I didn't even know what the first topic meant!
Of all the ambitious requests in the past month, finally one of them paid off! I got a response from one of the best organizations in business. While filling Mozilla's sponsorship form last month, they'd specifically mentioned that they avoid sponsorships, but do provide speakers for various events.

Now the next step, I had to reply. I first searched him on various platforms and verified his true identity and expertise in the technology. Okay, so we e-mailed him back, saying that it would be a pleasure to have him.

And just like that, I got to network with someone so above me.

Phase 2: Promotions

The time for sponsorships was now gone. It was February, and we had to promote the event outside our college too so more people can join in the Hackathon. We were given Social Media handles of HackOnHills to put up info about sponsors so the activeness of the page brings in traction from the students. I managed some posts for LinkedIn, kept liking posts of HackOnHills in other platforms.
People kept registering. The seniors were responsible for selecting the applications. 
Our aim was to reach a 1000 registrations for the Hackathon. 
Finally, we achieved this mark by the end of February, and the climax was near. 

Phase 3: Lodging

The Lodging phase began just a day before the event, that is, on 7th March. We started allocating time slots to members of our team to look after the registrations of teams participating from outside the college. People came in from Mumbai, Delhi, Jaipur and so on. This involved a lot of field work since the outsiders didn't know where a particular Guest Room was. And walking down to that room in a particular building took about 5-10 minutes. Nevertheless, someone from the team had to accompany the team to their respective rooms. 
I accompanied one such team from IIT Mandi. We had a great conversation about each other's colleges, our lifestyles and the culture around us. They were also sophomores, and also seemed like pretty decent guys who were here to learn. Although we didn't connect on any Social Media Platform, I'm glad we were just Social enough to know each other without any Media Platform involvement! 

We also had to prepare various speeches for the college dignitaries and hosts who would be speaking at the evening inaugration event. 

Honestly, the day before the actual Hackathon was the best day for me. I talked with so many people from my own college, outside of my college, and from my own team, which I absolutely loved!

At the end of this day, I was actually feeling disappointed that this amazingly hectic organizing day would only return next year. I miss the moments already. 

I wasn't a part of the organizing team after that since the actual Hackathon began, and I was a participant.

However, to conclude, this is what it takes to conduct a great Hackathon! Utmost dedication & amazing team work. Before this, App Team NITH was just a bunch of coders who used to come together twice a year and make an app for a small fest happening at our college. There was no unity, or love among us. But HackOnHills has changed us into something much more. We aren't just coders who can make websites, APIs or applications. We're not a club that's known from its college, we're a name that brands our college.


  1. 'we're a name that brands our college',Goosebumps (even though i am not a part of the team).


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