Wednesday, January 8, 2014

What Did I Do Wrong in My Hackathon Presentation?

Post-mortem analysis is the very flower of Pathology. And of medicine.

It's the mechanism by which one can scientifically determine pathology, learn from it, and eliminate it from live patients.

Very few presenters at the last Hackathon were "live" in the judges estimation, after they gave their 90 second lightening talk.

Toward the end of the 5 1/2 hour ordeal, the judges were saying, "so, is that another WTF? Did anyone understand what it did?"

And so, another 48 hours of labor times team-members bit the dust.

Don't you think thats a waste?

I suspect that huge numbers of original, innovative, and well executed projects were there at the Hackathon, but it was impossible to know for certain because the presentations were, generally speaking, so poor. Incredibly poor. As if they never read my blog poor.

TheHackerCIO isn't going to repeat the details of the 4 Tips for Hackathon Presenters. Follow the link, if you haven't read the basics, which I posted prior to the judging. Here, I'm just going to list them, with no details, and then add in an autopsy on the additional errors and failures I saw. I'm not prioritizing them or otherwise ordering the list. It's in the order that they come to my mind.

But anyway, we all know how many people love these numbered lists!!!

1. You over "Uh-ed".  Don't "Uh".  It's OK to think without making noise.  
2. You didn't Speak Up. Speak up. You have a microphone.  

5. You didn't focus. You can't solve every problem in Public Safety. You can't use every API on the contest list. Why do you make it seem in your presentation that it is "all things to all men." All that means, is that it is nothing. It has no identity. No integrity. Diffuse presentations were a major problem at the Hackathon and the judges hated it. 

6. You didn't rehearse. So you got cut off at the end of 90 seconds. That means you didn't get your conclusion in. You missed out on delivering the Fing most important lines of your presentation. All because you didn't rehearse and get your timing down. Shame on you. Shame. 

7. You presented How before What. I knew that you used a proximity sensor and a Gimbal and this AT&T API and that Plantronics head sensor and all kinds of wonderful stuff. WTF it actually did -- I have no clue. You presented how you did whatever you did but forgot to mention what it was you actually did. The what must precede the how. Duh. My 15-year old daughter complained most particularly to me about this, without my ever telling her. So how come you didn't figure that out? Because you didn't rehearse with anyone. And I was available. A Hackathon weekends labor is a terrible thing to waste. Especially just because you blew it something as simple as good communications. 

8. You failed to convince the judges panel that you actually produced a demo version of your product. That blew you straight out of the competition. In one particularly tragic case, TheHackerCIO had to fight with the other judges. "So, did they actually deliver anything?" Came the question from several of them. "Yes, they did,  I replied. I saw it working last night at 4am. And they had time to add in more after that!" But if I hadn't been there and hadn't seen that demo and been blown away by it, We would have immediately eliminated that team from the running and moved on.  Remember, we had about 10 seconds to evaluation your 90 seconds of presentation. 

9. You focused too much on the business or revenue model, when you were presenting to judges who were technical. In other Hackathons, CEOs were brought in to judge the winners. Those are the people to pitch on business viability. Now, a quick mention of this wouldn't have hurt, even with us. But some people spent way too much of their precious 90 seconds on this, when it WASN'T a JUDGING CRITERION. 

10. You wasted precious time from your 90 seconds by introducing yourselves and where your team was from. Your name is irrelevant. We had no criterion for "good introductions" that gave contestants points. All this did was rob you of time to convince us of your originality and execution. It's also the lamest possible attention step. "Hi, I'm Bill Hatley, from Iowa and Shirley here is from San Diego..." Yeah, that really riveted my attention; I quit looking at that cocktail waitress walking by because I wanted to see what Bill from Iowa looked like. 


Ok, so I'm way too tired tonight to continue. And I'll be moving on to other topics, starting tomorrow. But that doesn't mean that I won't be writing up all my notes from this event. I'll be dribbling them out over the next few months, so if you want to learn the most you can about the event for the next time, you'll need to stay tuned ...

And tomorrow morning, TheHackerCIO takes a plane out to Miami. Time to visit clients and get back to work. And get back to some other interesting technology problems. It wouldn't do to dwell overly on just Hackathons. 

Maybe it's time to talk about Strategy. 

Or about Java 8. 

Or ...

I Remain,


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