Facilitator Responsibilities

Let’s take a look at how a Startup Weekend facilitator is defined and the tasks that a facilitator has to complete before, and during the weekend.

What is a Techstars Startup Weekend Facilitator?

A facilitator is a member of the Techstars Startup Weekend community who has organized at least two Startup Weekends. They are considered resident Startup Weekend experts and caretakers of the participant experience. They are prepared to support the Startup Weekend organizing team and to make sure that everything goes smoothly during an event.

The facilitator is at the event to support the local organizing team, making sure that all attendees have a rich, positive experience. Responsibilities during the event include:

  • Emceeing the event and managing key event processes like pitches, voting, icebreaker games, and team formation

  • Educating participants on the methodology, key principles, importance of entrepreneurship, and the overall impact of Techstars Startup Weekend

  • Skilfully managing the tone, flow, feel, and logistics of the weekend

  • Helping the organizing team stay on schedule 

  • Ensuring that organizing teams meet the Techstars standard of excellence across the world

  • Representing global and local sponsors

  • Helping the organizing team coordinate the involvement of mentors, sponsors, judges and speakers during the event.

Once introduced to the organizing team, the facilitator will meet with them on a few occasions prior to the event to help brainstorm, provide guidance, and act as a general advisor throughout the team’s planning process.

Techstars views Startup Weekend facilitators as an extension of our team and it’s a key event requirement for organizing teams to have a Techstars-certified facilitator lead their event. Facilitators are our support on the ground at all of our events globally. We rely on them to be stewards of the Startup Weekend mission and to make sure that a consistent level of quality is delivered to every community around the world.

To ensure that a quality experience is had by all, we are committed to bringing in the right facilitators who are prepared to help expand the impact of Startup Weekend across the world. Therefore, we expect each facilitator to embody the Techstars Startup Weekend core values.

Facilitator Tasks: Before the Weekend

Before you arrive at Techstars Startup Weekend, there are tasks you need to complete to be ready for a successful event.

We recommend that you arrive in the event city on the Thursday evening or Friday morning before the weekend starts, and choose a hotel or lodging near the venue. This helps manage any unforeseen travel delays that could affect your participation.

Friday pre-event responsibilities


Prior to the event, these are the tasks you’ll need to work through with your organizing team:

  • Develop a run-of-show schedule for the weekend - bring a few printed copies along with you

  • Review a list of all the mentors and judges, along with their bios

  • Review the judging criteria

  • Make sure the judging forms and mentor signup sheets are ready and printed

  • Confirm all global and local sponsors, their logos, and messaging

  • Confirm prizes if applicable.

On your own, prepare your facilitator deck and ice-breaker activity, and review the scrum board process. 

Facilitator deck

We will provide you with a facilitator deck template that includes most of the information you need for presentations during the weekend. Some of the content you’ll be covering in the deck:

  • Startup Weekend and its core values and mission

  • 60-second pitch process

  • Idea validation

  • The voting process

  • Startup tools like the lean canvas

  • Mentor session process

  • Sunday presentation process

  • Judging criteria.

To complete the information in your deck, you’ll need the following from the organizing team:

  • Pictures and bios of the organizing team, mentors, judges, and speakers

  • Logos and messaging of local sponsors

  • Venue information like building access hours and parking

  • Social media hashtags for the event

  • The event schedule and weekend roadmap

  • Information regarding prizes. 

Scrum board

A scrum board is used to manage and prioritize tasks. You can work together with the organizing team to develop the Friday pre-event scrum board. You’ll organize tasks written on sticky notes, or on a white board, in three columns: ‘To Do’, ‘Doing’ and ‘Done’. Once someone starts working on a task, move it to the ‘Doing’ column and add their initials to the task. Once done, move it into the ‘Done’ column. 

You Friday board should include:

  • Wi-fi connection and speed testing

  • Audiovisual checks and a run-through of the facilitator deck 

  • Facilities checks

  • Registration setup

  • Supplies check.

Icebreaker

An icebreaker that is popular among Startup Weekend facilitators is called “Half-Baked.” 

This icebreaker should be helpful for participants to:

  • Set ground rules for their work during Startup Weekend

  • Feel safe in the space and comfortable to take risks

  • Learn to work within a team

  • Experience failing fast and making mistakes

  • Understand the elements of a pitch

  • Practice public speaking in a group

We explain the elements of this icebreaker in more detail in our icebreaker video.

Saturday pre-event responsibilities

Before Saturday events begin, make sure that the team has the following ready to go:

  • An updated mentor list with their bios, printed out for teams to review

  • Mentor signup sheets

  • Confirm mentor participation and arrival times with the organizing team

  • Confirm team information to provide to mentors

Review the mentor guide ahead of time to provide support to mentors or participants during mentor hours.

Sunday pre-event responsibilities

Before Sunday pitch presentations begin:

  • Confirm the order in which pitches will take place

  • Confirm that judging forms are printed and ready to go

  • Review the judging criteria

  • Update your facilitator deck with the following:

    • Teams and judging criteria

    • Post-event celebration or dinner details, including the location

    • A final “thank you” slide acknowledging all the sponsors, the organizing team, mentors, judges, volunteers, and the participants for their hard work. Include anyone else who helped make the weekend a success.

Review facilitator best practices

We’ve found that using these best practices can help facilitate a successful Startup Weekend:

  • Start and end all activities on-time, and if something runs over, make that time up by shortening another activity 

  • Be available to the organizing team before and throughout the weekend 

  • Communicate a clear and consistent message

  • Deliver presentations and carry yourself with positive energy, authenticity, and enthusiasm!

  • Help people feel included and comfortable to participate

  • Check in with participants to make sure they are informed about the day’s schedule, the pitching process, tech checks, and the judging criteria. Answer any questions they might have

  • Make sure you have a few stories or jokes handy to fill up space when tech issues arise

  • Try to meet everyone in the room and encourage participants to do the same.


Facilitator Tasks: During the Weekend


Friday


Remember to arrive at the venue with enough time to:

  • Complete a walk-through with the organizing team

  • Confirm the venue’s emergency procedures

  • Locate the restrooms.

  • Locate workspaces for participants

  • Locate a safe space to leave personal belongings

  • Develop your scrum board

  • Identify any red flags/concerns.

It’s important to start the event on time and follow the schedule. If you find that you lose time during one activity, make that time up during a later session. 

For participants, Friday night can be both thrilling and terrifying. Many might be anxious about their sixty second pitches, or about socializing in groups. Once you start your opening presentation, we recommend a short icebreaker activity to help get everyone settled in and acquainted (see “Half-Baked” above).

Opening presentation

You can find an overview of the topics and activities you’ll cover during your opening presentation below. Please check your facilitator deck for a complete and detailed list of all the slides and associated content that you’ll be running through. 

Welcome and explain Startup Weekend and Techstars: Explain the methodology, mission, values, goals, and impact. 

Introductions and stories: Using your facilitator deck, you’ll begin by introducing yourself and the organizing team, and talk about the goal of Startup Weekend. Include a success story to demonstrate the impact of the event and to inspire participants. We recommend telling your story to participants. Why are you a facilitator? What brought you here? It’s important to form a connection with the group so you’re approachable throughout the weekend.

Housekeeping: Review housekeeping items like venue information, emergency procedures, code of conduct, and event hashtags. 

Speaker intro: If applicable, introduce your keynote speaker. 

Weekend schedule and roadmap: Cover what everyone will be doing over the weekend.

Icebreaker: Following the speaker, it’s time for your icebreaker activity like “Half-Baked.” 

60-second pitches prep: Next it’s time for the 60-second pitches. Go through the elements of a good pitch from your deck:

  • State who you are and what your background is

  • Explain the problem that you’re going to solve

  • Explain your idea or product and how it solves the problem

  • Indicate what skill sets you need on your team, like a developer, marketer, or designer

  • Lastly, provide a name for your startup.

We recommend giving a sample pitch to demonstrate the elements of a good pitch. Please encourage all to pitch, no matter how they feel about their idea being picked. Participants never regret pitching, but they might regret not using the opportunity to practice pitching. 

Pitches time: Now, it’s time to pitch! Begin by reminding participants of good crowd etiquette. Everyone should be respectful and quiet during each other’s pitches. People sometimes get excited and forget this, so do halt the pitches to reestablish order in the room if need be before continuing the pitches. While the pitches are taking place, help the organizing team manage the pitch queues and enforce time limits. 

Voting prep: Make sure the organizing team or additional event volunteers are writing down all the ideas on posters or whiteboards, since participants will need this information later for voting. 

Voting support: The organizing team or  additional event volunteers should give out stickers to participants to place next to their top three ideas. The ideas with the most votes will be worked on throughout the weekend. Make sure that there is approximately one idea per 6-8 participants.

Recap of idea: For each idea that’s picked, ask the person who pitched it to give a short recap of their idea, which skills they need for their team, and why others should join their team. 

Form teams: Once you’ve completed this, allow for about 20 minutes for teams to be formed. 

Check to see that everyone has joined a team.

Friday wrap-up: After the teams are formed and before everyone heads away from the main presentation area, review the Saturday schedule, breakfast time, building access hours, and anything else participants should remember for the next day. 

Teams find space: At the end of your event wrap-up, invite the teams to find a good workspace for the weekend. Teams should start assigning roles to each team member, get to know each other, and decide what time to meet again in the morning.  

Saturday


Saturday is all about building minimum viable products and mentorship.

Morning welcome and announcements

Please review the day’s activities during your morning announcements, and remind participants of:

  • Venue information

  • The day’s agenda

  • The catering schedule

  • Speakers and workshops if applicable

  • Who the mentors are and what the mentoring process will look like 

  • How to sign up for mentor sessions

  • The need to focus on customer validation and building their MVP.

Judging criteria

Either during your morning address to participants, or during a later scheduled workshop, address each piece of criteria in detail. Here are the judging criteria:

  • Business Model

  • Customer Validation

  • Execution & Design 

  • Pitch.

See the full description of the judging criteria. We also provide a workshop template to guide you through the talking points of each of these criterions.  

Connect with teams

Once teams have had a chance to settle in and start building their products, take some time to walk around and meet each team individually. 

This is a good opportunity to remind teams to complete the team survey and register their team information. If they haven’t already done so, remind teams to sign up for mentor sessions before the mentors arrive.

Mentors

A large part of your responsibilities during Saturday is to coordinate and support mentors.

Please greet mentors when they arrive and ask mentors to take a moment to review the schedule. Even though the mentors typically review mentor expectations and best practices before the weekend, they may have questions. Review these guidelines ahead of time, so that you can answer any questions they might have.

Remind mentors that teams may need the most help with their business model, customer validation, and market strategies. We ask that mentors work with what the team presents and gently steer pivots where appropriate. 

Please assist the organizing team with facilitating introductions between teams and mentors.

Check-In 

Sometime in the afternoon, check in with the teams about their experiences with mentors and their overall progress. Encourage teams to start putting together a presentation deck for Sunday pitches if they’ve not started to do so already.

Saturday wrap-Up

To close the day, remind teams what time the venue closes, what time breakfast is served on Sunday, and that everyone has to have their presentations ready for tech checks on Sunday afternoon before pitches start. Take some time to acknowledge their hard work and accomplishments so far! 

Sunday


Sunday is an exciting and nerve-racking day for the participants, and it’s important to kick off the day with enthusiasm and encouragement. 

During your morning announcements, please remember to go through:

  • The day’s agenda

  • The judging criteria

  • Who the judges are

  • The tech check process

  • The pitch process

  • The prizes, if applicable

  • Information about the post-event celebration or dinner, if applicable.

Afterward, circle back with each of the teams individually to share their pitch order and reiterate information about the pitch process. Schedule each team for afternoon tech checks — all teams must run through a tech check. 

Tech checks

During the tech checks, make sure that each team knows the order of pitches and that they know which team is up before them. Instruct the teams where to be during and after the pitch.

Each presenter should run through their presentation and practice their pitch on-stage. Confirm that there’s a working mic for the judges.

Judges

As the judges arrive, take a moment to introduce yourself and make sure that they receive a copy of the judging form and criteria. Run through the schedule for the evening and the judging process with them. You will be their point of contact and guide throughout the process. 

Time to pitch!

Now for the most exciting part of Startup Weekend, where all the participants share the fruits of their hard work — the pitch!

During your pitches kickoff presentation, use your facilitator deck to help you:

  • Welcome all guests who came to watch the pitches

  • Acknowledge the global and local sponsors, organizing team, additional event volunteers, mentors, and anyone else who deserves a shoutout

  • Introduce the judges

  • Explain the pitch process and judging criteria (remember that there will be guests, so even though this might feel repetitive, don’t scrimp on the details)

  • Mention any prizes

  • Share information for the post-event party or dinner.

Support teams

When the pitch session begins, facilitators can be helpful by ensuring a smooth transition between teams and troubleshooting any issues that might come up.

Judges guide

After the final judges Q&A, invite guests and participants to network for a short while and escort the judges to a reserved space for voting. Once the judges have reached a decision on the winners, update your presentation. 

Announcement of Winners and Prizes!

Welcome everyone back. Please re-emphasize the commitment and hard work that all the teams have put into the weekend. Once you announce a winning team, invite them on stage to be recognized and receive their certificates and prizes, if applicable.

Sunday Wrap-up

Wrap up the evening by congratulating all participants. Remember to share information on how they can stay involved in the Techstars network (included in your deck template). Give a final shoutout to local and global sponsors, the organizing team, and anyone else who helped make this event a success. 

We recommend spending some time after the event networking with mentors, teams, and others involved with the event. This is a great opportunity for you to expand your network.

Facilitating Online Events

See Facilitating online events page for more details.