How to organize a Science Hack Day in your city
This video was shot at Science Hack Day San Francisco in 2013 and explains what a typical Science Hack Day is like.
Science Hack Day is an entirely free-to-attend and volunteer-organized event, created by and for open communities.
1. Lock down a venue and a date
This is the most vital step to make your event happen. Once you have a venue and a date, it’s easier to find sponsors, co-organizers, volunteers, and make all your plans. You should ideally set the date of your event to be at least 3 months in the future from the time you confirm the venue (e.g. if you confirm your venue on May 1, make the date of your event for sometime after August 1). Giving yourself at least 3 months will mean you don’t have to scramble to find sponsors or make plans.
Find a venue that is willing to donate their space to you for free (in exchange for a top sponsorship level). The best venues to ask first are offices since they close down over the weekend anyway. Office spaces also make for good venues since they usually will already have chairs, tables and WiFi. You’ll want to find a space that has at least one large open area where you can gather all your attendees in one place for presentations at the start and end of the event.
Not sure where to start? Ask your friends who work in fun office spaces about if their company might be open to hosting a Science Hack Day over a weekend.
2. Announce your event publicly
Once you have confirmed your venue and date, announce your date publicly! You don’t need to have everything planned out yet. Simply telling people your event date, location and when you’ll open up registration is enough.
You can either create your own event website, or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like a standard Science Hack Day website to be created for you with yourcityname.sciencehackday.org. You can use the Science Hack Day logo on your website or anything in whatever way you want. Once you’ve got your website, email email@example.com with your event details so your event can be listed on the Science Hack Day homepage.
3. Assemble your co-organizing team
This could be a couple of friends, or a number of people who represent different communities in your area (e.g. an artist, a science enthusiast, a web developer). When you begin planning, make sure to delegate tasks to different people so that each person can help make progress along the way.
4. Find sponsors.
Once you’ve secured your venue and date, you’ll need to immediately begin reaching out to potential sponsors. You should ideally put together a sponsorship prospectus that tells potential sponsors what Science Hack Day is about and what levels of sponsorship you’re looking for. Here is an example sponsorship prospectus that you’re welcome to copy from.
Ask companies, non-profits, and startups in your area if they’re interested in helping support your entirely volunteer-run and free-to-attend event. Don’t be nervous and don’t worry if you get rejected a few times – some companies are setup to regularly give away sponsorship and others are not. Enlist the help of your friends to get the word out about your event needing sponsorship.
5. Organize your budget and logistics.
Science Hack Day is a free-to-attend event and entirely volunteer-organized. The majority of the sponsorship money you bring in will go towards providing food to all attendees for free. Science Hack Day typically provides two breakfasts, two lunches and one Saturday night dinner, as well as snacks and refreshments, to attendees free-of-charge over the weekend.
Get quotes from local restaurants, pizza shops, and cafes so you can set a budget for how much sponsorship money you’ll need to bring in. You’ll ideally want a small amount of extra money in the budget for any additional needs (office supplies, renting tables, silly prizes, etc.). Science Hack Day is a bring-your-own-materials event, so you’ll want to encourage attendees to bring laptops and any tools/materials they think they might use to the event. Also tell attendees about any nearby hardware stores they (or your team) can run to during the event itself to get any materials on the fly. Optionally, if you’re able to partner with companies who can bring extra materials and tools (e.g. hand tools, electronics, crafts, etc.) to the event, that is always a bonus.
Next, begin laying out the schedule for the event (including your set-up & clean-up time). Here’s an example schedule. Identify who you’d like to invite as lightning talk speakers. Lightning talks should be very quick (5-10 minutes per talk) and not take up more than 90 minutes of your event time total. If your venue has the space, run concurrent lightning talks in separate rooms and let your attendees choose which ones they want to see. Lightning talks should mention resources attendees can use for their hacks during the event (science datasets, electronics, hardware, design/visualization tools, etc.). The main purpose of lightning talks is to provide a diverse range of science topics that attendees can realistically consider exploring over a weekend.
You’ll also want to plan on awarding medals/trophies to winning teams in different categories (Best In Show, Best Design, Best Hardware, Best Use of Data, and plan to have your attendees vote on who wins the People’s Choice Award). You can purchase affordable science medals in the United States from Trophies Plus.
6. Open up registration.
Diversity and inclusion are central to any Science Hack Day event’s success. Before you open up registration, curate a list of at least 25 super awesome people who are underrepresented minorities (think gender, race, disabilities, LGBTQ, etc.) that you’d love to attend your event and send them personal invitations. Personal invitations are one of the best ways to create a diverse event and you can never send too many of them. Personal invitations are always appreciated and help others know that their unique background is valued at the event.
Eventbrite is one of the best services to use for event ticket registration. You should ask attendees to register to attend, but remember: don’t charge money for tickets! Because people can register for free, you need to make double the number of tickets available as the number of attendees you want. Free events, no matter where in the world they take place, receive around 50% turnout. This means if you want 50 people at your event, you need to register 100 tickets.
As part of the registration process, ask your attendees to identify who they are – “artists/designers”, “scientists/researchers”, “developers/technologists”, or “just someone awesome”. This will help you keep track of the industry diversity of your event and tell you if you need to reach out to more people in a certain area (e.g. Low on artists? Reach out to your local art school about your event.). Be sure to email the registered attendees at least two times before the event giving them all the details they need to know and encouraging them to begin brainstorming.
We’re excited to add your Science Hack Day to the global family! Any questions about specifics?
Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Here’s also some further recommended reading for Science Hack Day organizers: Six fears that keep event organizers up at night (and how to overcome them)