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As you may have seen in Tuesday’s newsletter, we spent last weekend in Nashville hanging out with a raucous group of ladies for Ladies Hack Day.

The event was unbelievably fun (totally punk rock, one might say) and we are now busy brainstorming ways that we can bring Ladies Hack Day to ladies (and gents) all over the country.

Did I say country? I meant, world!

But before we can enact our plot for world domination, we wanted to share with you what worked, what didn’t work & our tips for how to host a Ladies Hack Day of your own.

Step 1: Make yourself accountable to a bunch of people
When Martha thought of the idea for Ladies Hack Day her very first step was to pick a date & announce the event to the Nashville tech community.

This move was actually quite risky since she hadn’t lined up anything: no speakers, no venue, no sponsors, no nothing! What if it all fell apart?

But what she did was publicly commit to making the event happen, and there is nothing like being held accountable to an entire community to light a fire under your a**.

Step 2: Line up a venue
Thanks to her contacts in the tech community, Martha was able to secure a donated space at Emma’s headquarters, an email marketing company based in downtown Nashville. The space was huge, beautiful, and since it was a tech company, already equipped with wifi and all of the other things you need for a hack day.

Even if you don’t have access to a local tech company with a large meeting space, there are tons of community organizations and schools who will be happy to donate space in exchange for mention as a sponsor.

Step 3: Get the word out
Ask anyone who has organized an event or tried to start a company, marketing is always the biggest challenge. When it comes to marketing there is no silver bullet, or at least, it’s hard to know what will be the silver bullet until you have tried it.

So a wide sweeping approach is the best way to go until you find what works. We suggest you try: reaching out to your friends & colleagues via email, announce the event on social media, get listed in the paper, post flyers on the street…seriously, no idea is too smalll, too big, or too silly.

Step 4: Line up sponsors
Insider tip: often the only thing you have to do to get money is ASK. And the good news is that people and businesses love to support women learning more about tech. So give all your local tech businesses a ring and see if they won’t throw a few hundred dollars in the pot. Just make sure to thank them at the hack day and on all of your marketing material.

Step 5: Creature comforts
Then use those funds to buy yourself and all the participants some good grub! Seriously, there is nothing like stale pizza to ruin a perfectly delightful hackday. In Nashville Martha was able to feed 75 people a healthy lunch of salad and quiche for only $300.

Step 6: Curriculum
We are here to learn something after all!

Ladies Hack Day consisted of three learning modules:

  1. 1. Learn how to build a simple e-card (a la Paperless Post) in HTML & CSS
  2. 2. Learn how to make that e-card interactive with a little bit of JavaScript
  3. 3. Learn how to build a twitter bot for good, in Python

Martha did a few things right here: she created attractive, clear projects that everyone could get something out of. The e-card was a project that was easy enough that it was doable for absolute beginners, while being fun enough that everyone got something out of it. Moreover, the twitter bot was cool enough to keep people engaged, even though they were learning some pretty complex programming stuff.

In addition, it worked perfect to have the material get more difficult over the course of the day–its natural for there to be a little bit of a drop off in participation as the day goes on, but those hackers that stick with it get rewarded with some seriously awesome tech know-how.

If possible, we recommend that you get a different teacher to teach each module. The reason for this is simple: it’s just plain hard to teach all day!

Further Resources
Some great resources to use in your Ladies Hack Day:

Have you run a hackathon in your community? Do you want to? Tell us what you are thinking!

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