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6 Tips for making a winning hackathon demo video
Participant Resources

6 Tips for making a winning hackathon demo video

Learn how to make a hackathon demo video with these tips from other hackathon participants.

Your project’s demo video is one of the most important parts of your entire project. It’s one of the first things that judges will look at when reviewing your submission, and this is your chance to showcase all the cool things your project can do—in around three minutes.

To help you make a great demo video, we've gathered invaluable insights straight from the trenches with tips submitted on Discord by our very own community members. From meticulous planning to seamless execution, these user-tested tips will help you put together a polished demo video to showcase your project. 

Meet your fellow participants:

  • Babatunde Onabajo, participated in 151 hackathons and won three
  • shemmarie, participated in 25 hackathons and won four
  • Thegu5, participated in 10 hackathons and won five
  • Danny Chavez
  • Shamima

(P.S. we’ve previously featured Babatunde in a Devpost user story—check it out!)

Whether you're a seasoned veteran or a first-time participant, let’s dive into these tips for making demo videos that shine.

Tip 1: Plan your video early and give yourself enough time

A lot of hackathons require projects to be submitted with a video showing how the project works. Make sure to give yourself enough time from the outset by planning your video early.

Babatunde:

“It's extremely important to give yourself enough time when making a video for a hackathon. Some hackathons are very strict and don't give extensions, so if you don't give yourself enough time you may find your project is ineligible.”

shemmarie:

“Start putting your demo video together at the beginning of the hackathon. By that, I mean use the ideation phase to come up with a pertinent and compelling problem to solve with your hackathon project. This becomes your pitch, your story, and the reason why you and your team created your hackathon project.

Start early and leave at least two or three hours before the end of the hackathon to polish, record, and upload your demo video (and Devpost submission).”

Tip 2: Prepare a compelling script

Most hackathons require demo videos to be less than three minutes. You’d be surprised how quickly a minute or two goes by when you’re demoing your project! Before you start recording, write a script to help keep you on track and make sure you cover all the key information.

Thegu5:

“Write a script! Try to avoid ChatGPT here if you can—its output is often too generic and it won't describe your project better than you can. Don't be afraid to spend some extra time on your script if it means you write it yourself.”

Danny:

“I created a little script in the notebook about how I wanted to divide the three minutes. 

In this sense, what I do is take into consideration how many seconds I want to use for the introduction, how many seconds I want to use to explain the idea of the project, how many seconds I want to use to explain the components of the project, how many seconds for the video demo, and usually the last seconds is for closing or farewell.”

Editor’s note: Be sure to double-check the submission requirements to see how long demo videos can be! It varies from hackathon to hackathon, but most are under three minutes long.

shemmarie:

“Use the Devpost submission form to create and write your elevator pitch and the project story. 

Do this before you start hacking/coding! You can save and fill in the rest or tweak it later closer to the end of the hackathon. This will almost be your demo video script and it's done before you write a line of code!”

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Tip 3: Highlight what your project does, how it solves the problem, and how it works

It’s almost time to record your video! Not sure what to say? Don’t worry, you’ve got this. Just focus on the most important information—what your project does, how it solves the problem, and how it works. Keep in mind that judges will likely review multiple projects back to back, so make sure to start your video with a quick overview.

Thegu5:

“Start with your pitch and a quick overview of your project before diving in and presenting it. Include the problem you're solving (if any), frameworks/libraries you used, etc.”

Shamima:

“Demo your project by running it on a localhost. Describe your project by answering these questions:

  1. What is the idea behind your project? Try to tell a story to get the audience to understand your problem and be interested in your solution.
  2. What is your solution/idea? What does your project do?
  3. What tech stack did you use?

Always remember to KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid)!”

Shemmarie:

  • “Tie it all back to your story—what problem you solved and who your project positively impacts.
  • Keep it short, interesting (no slide shows/decks), and visually engaging.
  • Say thank you!
  • Have fun!”

Danny:

“Talk about how you got the problem solved. 

Show a demo of the product running by using some input. Show what it does as much as possible so judges can get an idea of what it does and how it helps.

Address how it meets the judging criteria—are you addressing what the site actually asked for? What is the future potential of the app? Could it be deployed wider—especially when there’s big budget or grant funding?

If you have more to share, add longer text or supplemental information.”

Tip 4: Use tools that are fastest for you to use

In a hackathon, time is of the essence. After you’ve spent hours perfecting your project, the last thing you want is to get slowed down by using a new video editing software for the first time. Instead, choose tools that will be easiest—and fastest—for you to use. Here’s what our community members use.

Babatunde:

“I tend to use Microsoft PowerPoint because it's very easy to export a presentation into the format of a video. This is in contrast to standard tools such as Adobe After Effects or Adobe Premiere Pro, which are more "heavy duty." Because you don't have a lot of time in hackathons, you need software that gets right to the point. Microsoft PowerPoint gives that.”

Shamima:

“Use Google Slides if you are working in a team so you can all edit the slides. Use Slidesgo to get free pretty Google Slide templates.”

Thegu5:

“Use OBS Studio to record your desktop and audio. If you want to edit the recording, use Premiere Pro if you have it already—if not, use Kdenlive.”

Danny:

I use Canva to create the presentations since I can control the duration of each slide. Then with OBS software, I record the project demo if I am presenting from my laptop or PC. But if I performed the demo on a cell phone then I use the screen recording function that is already built into the device.

To put everything together I use Premier Pro which allows me to post-edit the entire process. With this software, I can control the duration of the timeline, transitions, and any effects I want to include.

I export the final file and evaluate if the quality of what I want is acceptable, it is explained well to the judges, and the message is well explained. If it is necessary to make any adjustments to the recording then I can correct it and repeat the process.”

Tip 5: Keep your pitch clear and concise

Start the video with your elevator pitch. Explain what your app does and how it addresses the hackathon in the first few seconds of your video. You can get into the details of how it works immediately after.

Thegu5:

“Make your presentation clear and concise. Don't try to pack in way too much information or speed up the audio to fit within a time limit.”

Shemmarie:

“Make sure your demo video is highly visual, and interactive (show your project in use). Show the visual aspects of your project. 

Spend a little time showing the technical aspects of what you worked on but don't get too bogged down in the technical aspects.”

Danny:

“Be concise. Try to get as much as possible covered in the first two to three minutes with key info upfront.”

Tip 6: Don’t overlook technical details and video quality

Judges need to be able to clearly see, hear, and access your demo video. Check out these technical tips to help improve video quality.

Shamima:

“Use a built-in Mac recorder to record your presentation.”

Thegu5:

“If on a team, get the team member that has the best microphone to record.”

Babatunde:

“I would recommend uploading your video to YouTube as opposed to other video sharing platforms. The reason for this is that when you upload a video, YouTube gives you a link even before it's finished uploading. This enables you to use the link for Devpost so you don't even have to wait for it to be uploaded completely before submitting it to Devpost. 

Be sure to mark your video as "Not for Kids" on YouTube so that it is not inaccessible to judges; this is due to a strange quirk YouTube made in response to the COPPA law in the US.”

Tips from Devpost

At Devpost, we’ve been helping companies run hackathons since 2009. Here are some bonus tips from our team of hackathon experts:

  • Don’t wait until the last minute to upload your video.
  • Check the privacy settings of your video—if it’s private, the judges won’t be able to access it!
  • Make sure it’s a demo! Show your project or app in action and include more information in your text description if needed.

That’s a wrap!

A clear and easy-to-follow demo goes a long way in showcasing your project and impressing judges. By following the insights shared by our community of hackathon enthusiasts, you're equipped with the tools and strategies needed to elevate your demo videos. Now, get out there and let your projects shine bright on the virtual stage!