Making the most of HackCon

A first timer’s guide to HackCon US

This write-up is intended for those who have never been to HackCon (US) before and are wondering what they can do to make the most of the weekend. If it’s not your first rodeo feel free to skip this one… or read through and send me a shout on stuff you think I may have forgotten!

Let’s dive right in.

Pregame

Mindset

You’re about to meet 300–400 people. Are you excited? Are you nervous? Having the right energy and the right attitude is key to getting the most of the event. You want to go into the weekend with a positive and collaborative attitude. After all, you’re all there because you believe greatly in building up your hacker community and making it the best possible one for students. There can be some uneasiness when thinking about meeting that many people, which can hinder your ability to get the most out of the event. So, a good way to shift your attitude positively is through the act of preparation — focusing on your outcomes/goals.

Preparation

It’s easy to get caught up in the hype of being surrounded by hundreds of other like-minded students. The simple act of writing out what your goals are can help can move your attitude in the right direction. Try to sit down and visualize what would you like the outcome to look like. What are you hoping to get out of HackCon? Maybe you are just looking to find out more general information about hackathons. Or maybe you want something more specific like creating more inclusive events, hosting other events to complement your hackathon, tips on fundraising, etc. Take a look at the schedule. Which sessions look interesting to you? Think about what you’d like to get out of each one, this doesn’t have to be the same as the main takeaway. Meet with your team before jetting off to New York. Maybe not all of you get to go and it’s good to find out what information they would like to gain as well. It’ll not only be what you want to get out of the event but also your team.

By being well prepared and enthusiastic you will be able to create the confidence you need for a successful HackCon. Let’s move on to some advice you can take on during the weekend.

Show time

Divide and conquer

If your team is fortunate enough to send more than one person to the conference, make sure to have a game plan. Don’t all go to the same session. Split up and attend as many different ones as you all can. If two of you want to go to the same session, make the tough call and appoint only one of you. Write down points you want to bring up or information you want to gather and hand it off to the other person. Cover as much ground as you can.

Participate

Not only is it great to hear other people’s perspective, but it’s also a great opportunity to share your stories and experiences. This may seem evident, but it’s easy to want to sit back and hear what everyone else has to say, especially if everyone sounds like they have more experience than you. Don’t let this fool you. Your fresh perspective can bring a lot to the table. Your voice matters! We want to make hackathons the best they can be and that’s going to differ from community to community and from the various levels of experience. Making better hackathons is going to stem from your input, so put it out there!

Connect

I’m going to challenge you. Make at least 5 meaningful connections. This connection could be someone who ran a cool workshop and you want to sync up to get tips, someone who’s written a lot of posts online and you want to read/hear more, or just someone who loves the same board game as you. With that, try to swamp knowledge with other attendees. You are good at X and can help them with that or you need help with X and they can help you with that. While meeting attendees, make sure that includes meeting the sponsor reps— the ones who attend this event are pretty gung-ho about helping your communities. They are looking to find out in what ways they can help and are looking for have you contribute to their company as well!

Random Kim Tips

  • Bring stickers!! Sticker swamping is hella fun.
  • Don’t bring a lot of clothes, but do bring warm clothes… you know the old saying, you can always take off layers.
  • Please do not be cliquey!! Big events like this can foster pack mentality, but I strongly urge you to not fall into that. I know you love your fellow organizers and hacker group, but break off and meet other people. When you stick together it can make it difficult for others to approach your large group.
  • Check twitter for #hackcon and see what people are talking about. Tweet about why you’re excited and let other people find you 🙂
  • Take notes! I made a conference note taking sheet template for HackCon, feel free to use it. You can find it here.

Don’t forget to live in the moment! At the end of the day, our experiences and the relationships we build are what we are left with. Make the most of this opportunity — connect, create relationships, and LEARN from other student leaders.

I’d love to hear from you! What are your tips for preparing for this type of conference/event? Leave your feedback/comments below ↓

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