Maritz Global Events Blog

Unleashing Event Innovation Through Hackathons

It’s no longer a secret: hackathons are quickly becoming utilized to generate new ideas and spark event innovation across the industry.

It’s a fun, engaging way to encourage guests to solve the very stumbling blocks that plague their organizations or industries.

If you’re unaware of this new phenomenon, here’s a great place to start your journey.

Yeah, We Can Sponsor That

As show organizers, we are here to create experiences. People attend events to learn from one another and network.

The hackathon accomplishes both in one fell swoop.

And, like any excellent business opportunity, something new, exciting and productive is ripe for sponsorship.

Think about it: shows are ALWAYS looking for new and innovative ways to involve sponsors. Sponsoring a hackathon is a brilliant way to do this.

Not only is their logo attached to the excitement around the event, but the sponsor’s attendees can also immerse themselves in the community, whether they are hacking, judging, providing thought leadership or more.

If I’m sponsoring an event, I want to be associated with something that is experience-driven. I want to be part of something different that is helping solve a critical challenge pertinent to my community.

event innovation

Asking the Right Questions

A well-designed hackathon creates the right mindset and environment for more productive ideation. It engages a diverse set of perspectives in a constructive debate.

It also raises a lot of questions.

And that’s the beautiful part of the hackathon: more often than not, we get better answers by asking even more questions!

The 5 Why’s

Remember when you were five, and for every answer your parents gave you, you quickly responded with, “but why?”

Back then, it was annoying. But here, it’s critical.

When you get stuck on an idea or feel as if you’re in a rut, ask “why.”

By doing this five times, you can get a better understanding of what the real problem is.

I use this as a tool when groups are debating their challenges. To see the lightbulbs going off when they dig deeper is incredible.

Question Burst

Something I’ve talked about a lot previously, the question burst, is an incredible tool to get the brain in a state of curiosity.

An idea I picked up from Hal Gregerson, author of Better Brainstorming: Why Questions Matter More Than Answers, the Question Burst forces each member of the team to compile a list of 15-20 questions about the challenge before they start brainstorming.

The goal is to spark an idea or thought process regarding the issue. Even if an idea seems straightforward, challenge it! Ask what else could be done. How could it be changed?

People will immediately try to solve the problem. You need to start by asking questions and putting your mind in a curiosity state.  As a result, you may come up with a solution that would not have otherwise been generated.

Our friends at the American Heart Association chose the hackathon as a way to generate new ideas to prevent heart failure. The hackathon was held on their trade show floor to give guests a firsthand look at how it works.

If you are attending Expo! Expo! 2019 this year, I hope you’ll join Heather Starks and me as we dissect the hackathon methodology and how it can be used to create an incredible experience for your guests.