A non-techie's guide to attending tech events

November 25, 2016
5 min read

If you are like me who has an interest in technology but not enough to be called a techie, this article is for you.

Being around technology enthusiasts can be very intimidating especially when you are still building up your technology vocabulary. It could also be very boring.

I have been around techies for a while now, attended several hackathons and have gathered the main highlights of my experience in this article.

Before I go further, I believe a definition would help. A hackathon is an event, typically lasting several days, in which a large number of people meet to engage in collaborative computer programming.


Here are some things you need to know before attending one.

A hackathon is just that -- A hackathon


Do not expect anything more. A group of techies coming together to make non-techies feel awkward. To avoid being seen as a novice, you have to pretend to understand the things they are talking about (even though you don’t). Put in comments, say things like ‘oh really?’ ‘That’s a nice one’

Expect to hear some words being used repeatedly


Words like ‘innovation’, ‘startup’, ‘hub’, ‘prototype’, ‘database’ are some of the words you will commonly hear at a hackathon. To avoid looking like an alien in the techsphere, you should look up these words before attending. This will help you know the difference between a startup and a small-scale business. Yes,  in case you didn’t know, there is a difference between the two (thank me later).

Go with a laptop, pad, phone or any gadget you can take notes in but not a book!


Yes, do not take a notebook to take down notes. As normal as it seems to you, it is weird to techies. Writing on a paper makes you look outdated and backwards. To avoid strange looks, take notes on a gadget.

Do not expect anything fancy


The halls won’t be decorated with beautiful draping and lights (it is not a red carpet event). Do not expect background music either -- it distracts them. Expect a hall decorated with roll-up banners of different companies and organisations.

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Move around -- interact


Do not seat like you are glued to your chair. Walk around and interact -- Network! You may not know anyone there, well except for the people you came with, but that should not stop you. Walk over to the next table or team as the case may be and say hi. You need not worry a conversation would ensue from there.

If there is one thing techies know how to do, it’s networking, interacting. Who knows, you might just meet someone that knows someone who needs your services or products. One more thing, to facilitate easy movement; please wear comfortable clothes and shoes.

Smile and look like you are having fun


Even though you find it boring, do not keep a straight face, wear a smile. This would help you avoid some annoying questions like ‘are you bored?’ And you dare not say yes. Techies believe it is not possible to be bored with talks about technology. “Technology is everything’ they always say. Don’t be offended by this, they are simply in love.

Don’t talk to the guys seriously punching their laptop


Chances are, you are disturbing them. They may give you their attention and answer your questions, even keep the conversation going. But the truth is, they would actually prefer it if you let them be. They are working and have to beat the time. Look for others who are “less” busy to engage in a conversation

Do not bother dressing for an event


Techies are not fashion conscious. They are the last people to bother about matching colours and patterns. You should not bother dressing up as much because no one would even notice. You would see different mismatches and colour riots, so to be able to survive the event, become colour-blind or fashion-dead. For the most part, the ones well dressed are the females and a few guys who wear a jean (mostly faded) and a tee shirt -- that’s just as good as it gets.

This is quite understandable.  They barely get enough sleep with all the time they spend in front of computers, so, the last thing they would be bothered about is fashion.

It seems to be that the more of a techie you are, the less concerned you are about your appearance (just my opinion)

I only wish I had read an article like this before attending a hackathon. I would have been well prepared. Anyway, I hope you found this helpful.


About the Author

Chidera Gift Peters:  Chidera is a tech lover but not an enthusiast. I love to write out my thoughts. A relationship expert and also a spoken word artist. Some were born to write but I was born to talk. I love to talk.

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