How To Present A Successful Hackathon Demo

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Editor’s note: Brandon Kessler is the founder and CEO of ChallengePost, a platform to showcase software, online competitions, and hackathons.

It’s sad to stay up for three days building something awesome only to bomb the demo presentation. It’s no surprise it happens: you’re exhausted and racing to finish your project, with little time to plan your words, and only a few minutes to say them. So here’s some advice on how to give a great hackathon presentation.

1. Quickly set the scene

Why did you build this? In a few sentences, explain the problem you’re solving, or the status quo you’re greatly improving. The more the audience grasps the problem, the better. But remember, keep it short and to the point.

Some examples: “We all know doing math homework is a total drag, so… I created a robot to do it.” Or, “Urban planning is one of the most complex professions in the world. The tools on the market are expensive, outdated, and use two dimensions when the world has moved to 3D. I wanted to change that.”

2. Demo your working project

Now that you’ve set the scene, it’s time for the most important part: showing your project in action. Decide what’s important to show within the time you’re allotted. Briefly mention key technologies you used, or impressive technical challenges you overcame. Skip mundane flows such as creating user credentials, and have any needed text copied to your clipboard. Whatever you do, it’s crucial to show resolution to the problem you initially identified so your audience can see a) what your project does, and b) that you’ve completed the key components of it.

3. Quickly wrap it up and sell the dream

Now that you’ve shown your project actually helps solve the problem you identified, spend a sentence or two highlighting its potential and any ambitions you have, so your audience understands its long-term impact.

4. Crush your online presentation

Most hackathons require you to submit your projects online first so you get maximum exposure, and because judges use the platform to determine finalists. Start early as it will pay dividends and help you crystallize your thoughts. Like your verbal demo, a great online presentation will describe the problem you’re solving, show what the hack specifically does, and highlight its potential impact.

You should mention the technologies you used, anything interesting you learned, and give credit to your teammates. The best presentations we see on our platform include screenshots and a video demo. And remember, just because the hackathon ends, you don’t have to stop hacking. Keep updating your project so your fans stay in the loop.

Good luck!

Featured Image: Joseph Xu/Michigan Engineering Communications & Marketing