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An Innovator’s Guide to Crafting the Perfect Hackathon Pitch

Are you looking to perfect your hackathon pitch for your innovative idea? Ahead of the NurseHack4Health: Pandemic Management—Improving Education and Communication virtual hackathon, we’ve gathered best practices and tips from nurse innovators and created a quick guide to crafting a memorable pitch!
Nursing News & ProgramsNurses Leading Innovation

An Innovator’s Guide to Crafting the Perfect Hackathon Pitch


Are you looking to perfect your hackathon pitch for your innovative idea? Ahead of the NurseHack4Health: Pandemic Management—Improving Education and Communication virtual hackathon, we’ve gathered best practices and tips from nurse innovators and created a quick guide to crafting a memorable pitch!

Johnson & Johnson, in partnership with SONSIEL (Society of Nurse Scientists, Innovators, Entrepreneurs & Leaders), Microsoft and dev up, is excited to host a second NurseHack4Health virtual hackathon this November 13 to 15! Nurses, other healthcare professionals, programmers, designers, engineers, IT experts and innovators will come together to find tech-based solutions to the most pressing COVID-19 challenges and, after a weekend of collaboration, pitch their ideas before a panel of judges. To help our teams deliver the best pitches they can, we’ve prepared a quick guide for participants to ensure their pitches incorporate the fundamental elements of a great pitch. We’ve also asked some of the judges to share pitch tips of their own!

Here are seven key questions innovators should ask themselves when developing their pitch:

What’s your story?

Everyone loves a good story and incorporating yours is a clear way to make your pitch memorable. Draw people in with the inspiration behind the problem you are trying to solve. Storytelling allows us to talk WITH people, rather than just talk TO them, and allows us to create connections. People not only need to understand your idea, but they need to feel it. The story of your innovative solution should thread through your entire presentation—set up your solution, explain existing struggles and spotlight how your idea solves the problem. Consider creating a storyline for your pitch with notecards or sticky notes!

A pitch is really about telling a story, making it personal and drawing people in. Like any good story, it should have a beginning, middle and an end. You want to write out your pitch and memorize it. Once you are comfortable with the language and flow, start reading it out loud, and then in front of others, over and over again. That is really important.
Marion Leary, RN, MSN, MPH, Director of Innovation at Penn Nursing

What problem are you trying to solve?

How you describe the problem is one of the most important components to a pitch. Tell us the problem through storytelling and bring your audience straight into the story. Don’t assume those listening to your pitch understand the current environment. Explain the problem in detail, step by step. How big is the problem? How many people does the problem affect? How much does the problem cost if there is no solution? Draw the audience in and make them feel like they are solving the problem along with you.

Passionately convey why there is an important and substantial problem in the current market that must be solved, why your novel solution is the best way to solve it in a way that generates value and why you and your team are uniquely qualified to make it happen.
Paul Coyne, DNP, MBA, MSF, RN, APRN, AGPCNP-BC, Assistant Vice President at Hospital for Special Surgery and Co-Founder of Inspiren

What is your solution?

This is one of the most important part of your pitch, make sure you spend enough time describing your solution thoroughly. What are the key elements of your solution? How will it be used? Who will be using your solution? What will the costs be? Does it have an intuitive design? Where will your solution live? While your solution may address several issues in healthcare, consider identifying three strong points that you would like your audience to remember.

For the upcoming NurseHack4Health virtual hackathon, you’ll be asked to prepare a Minimally Viable Product (MVP). An MVP has just enough core features for the solution to be demonstrated or used. The advantage of developing an MVP is to quickly get a working solution to a pressing problem into the healthcare setting. Learn more about developing an MVP here.

Design thinking allows you to bring three perspectives together when crafting your pitch: desirability, feasibility and viability. Always start with desirability: who are the people you would like to help? What are their needs, motivations, values and aspirations? The answers to these questions will guide your decision-making throughout the process, from idea generation to prototyping and storytelling.
Naz (Najmeg) Mirzaie, Senior Designer, Design Research and Systems at IDEO

What solutions are currently available?

Research what is currently on the market. The current solutions will be your competitors, and knowing your competitive set well will enable you to compete more effectively. Are there any existing solutions that address the problem you’re working on? If yes, how is your solution different? Are there any significant inefficiencies in existing solutions that would set your solution apart? Consider creating a grid to show what current solutions offer and how your idea differs. And if nothing like your solution already exists, make sure to mention that in your pitch!

What would be the implementation cost?

You don’t need to have a full business plan, but you and your team should think about the cost of implementing your idea. Consider who will pay for your solution. Will it be the patient? Insurance company? Hospital system? Also, try to understand how much it will cost you to build your solution, since this will help you determine what the retail price would be. Consider how will you penetrate the market. Who are the key market influencers and decision makers you need to target or consider?

How will you scale your solution?

When devising a solution, you should always think about the size of your target population and give some thought to how the solution can be scaled and implemented in the future. In your pitch, touch on what you would need to be successful and who else may need to be involved to implement your solution. Anticipate any regulations surrounding this solution or barriers you may encounter and have a plan for addressing them. Consider whether there may be additional uses for your solution or other areas in which it could be implemented.

What impression do you want to leave of your idea?

Don’t rush the close. Bring the story you opened with full circle. Remind the audience what they have seen, reinforcing no more than three key points about your solution. Also, make sure to introduce your team members and their diverse skill sets, which strengthen the solution. Judges want to know why yours is the right team to bring this idea from conception to implementation!

The best pitches involve storytelling that immediately draws your audience in, helps them understand the problem you are solving and makes them feel like they have partnered with you in solving the problem. You are selling yourself as much as you are selling your idea. As judges, we always look forward to hearing your background, what inspires you and your expertise in your chosen focus area.
Miyam Nadel, RN, MBA, CCG, Director of the Center for Innovations in Care Delivery at Massachusetts General Hospital and Johnson & Johnson Nurse Innovation Fellow

Additional words of wisdom for your next pitch, especially one in a virtual environment:
· Practice, practice, practice! Be mindful of any time limits for your pitch and practice your delivery a few times through.

· If you’ll be pitching with a team, consider assigning slides or sections of the pitch before presenting. If you are crunched for time or pitching in a virtual environment, consider selecting one team member to deliver the pitch to ensure smooth transitions.

· Try to anticipate the judges’ questions so you can practice answering them.

· Test the technology. Consider logging on early, testing audio and video clips, and making sure your devices are charged!

Looking to brush up on more innovation skills ahead of the upcoming NurseHack4Health virtual hackathon event? Visit our NurseHack4Health resource page on for more on what to expect from a hackathon, navigating open source information and more!

Looking for more inspiration? Visit our latest innovation resource, the Johnson & Johnson Nursing Innovation 101 Hub, a destination aiming to inspire nurses to begin their innovation journey by providing key innovation resources and celebrating the legacy of nurse innovators.

Visit here to learn more about how Johnson & Johnson is supporting frontline health workers, your patients and your community as we navigate the unprecedented challenges of COVID-19.

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