Running a Startup Weekend: The Facilitator’s Arsenal

It’s been a while since I’ve found the time to write. Funnily, last year’s resolution was that I’d post “one blogpost a month” and here I am a year later just starting to write one article. Goes to show how much New Year’s Resolutions make an impact. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯But, nevertheless, with the year of hiatus I definitely have enough content to go around if ever I do end up blogging again and this is one of the ideas I’ve had for a while. Startup Weekend has been a big part of my life ever since I joined my first one in 2012 and I’ve done my best to pass on that spirit to the communities I volunteer at.

To date, I’ve been to 13 startup weekends and thankfully some were hosted by the same communities (because “yey, the beaker has been passed!”).

I became an official facilitator last year and, man, has that role given me so much perspective on running an effective program. I’m not the best at it yet and I doubt I’ll ever be, considering everything new I learn each time I facilitate, but I am eager to share my perspective on being one so far. If there are any other Startup Weekend facilitators out there reading this, then please share your thoughts in the comments, I’d love to hear what you think about preparing to facilitate an event.

Your Facilitator’s Deck

You are nothing without this. If you forget anything, may it not be this. This is the bread and butter for all facilitators and running a startup weekend without this will be like hacking your way through a jungle in circles. Thankfully, the standard Global Facilitator’s Deck is formatted so conveniently that it’s easy to customize no matter what the theme of the event is.

I’ve learned a few tricks on making the most out of the facilitator’s deck:

1. Always edit it in Google Slides

Google Slides is your best friend. It has the nifty, “replace image” feature that makes replacing elements in the slides super easy and plus, wherever you end up opening your deck, as long as you’re using Google slides, the layout won’t distort or lack any of your elements, provided that you edited and saved them in the cloud appropriately.

2. Always show your slides to (at least) the organizer in-charge of the program flow

Each community is different, and Startup Weekends might work differently in that community even though they all follow the same core program. They might have dinner first before the fire pitches, or they might have a workshop before teams are allowed to pick their work spaces for the weekend. Work with the organizers to make sure your slides fit in the flow that they had in mind for the event. Ideally this happens before, or a few hours before the event starts, and not 30 mins before you’re supposed to go on stage but a little coordination won’t hurt anyone. Trust me, it helps.

3. Always have an offline version of your Facilitator’s Deck

Be it a PDF or a series of JPEG files for each slide, having an offline version of the slides that are the bread and butter of your role as a facilitator will come in handy whenever there are technical difficulties at the event. Your laptop might glitch out, the projector might be faulty, or worse, the power might go out. The Facilitator’s Deck is how you make sure you’re covering everything there is to cover for the event. Always have it on you to guide you especially on Friday and Sunday night.

4. Memorize the Judging Criteria

I always make it a point to emphasize to participants that “If you ever get lost, always remember to turn back to the Judging Criteria”. Winning isn’t everything about Startup Weekend. It’s about learning how to present an idea in a way that whoever may be listening to you, they will understand you. The Judging Criteria actually helps participant do that quite well.

You don’t necessarily have to memorize all the guide questions, but it would be very helpful to know the three categories that the questions belong to, and what each category means in the context of the event: Validation, Execution and Design, and Business Model.

5. If you can project it, project it

Sometimes participants get so immersed in their work that they forget to pay attention to announcements. If your venue allows for whole day useage of the projector, create a GIF that includes the following slides:

  • Judging Criteria
  • Global Partners slides (with promo codes)

More often than not, you’ll be referring to these slides a lot as the weekend progresses and it saves a lot of time to project them in a loop and have them available for participants to take a picture of whenever they feel like they need to copy the details.

Adapters, Cables, and Connectors

If you can afford to have all of them, have all of them. And I mean “I have a Mac adapter but I don’t actually have a Mac”-have-them. It helps the organizers a lot (especially if they’re first-time organizers) if you come prepared as well.


Always have music on hand. If you have Spotify Premium, I highly recommend downloading this playlist the night before the event.

Not only is this playlist pre-curated by our (awesome) Regional Manager, Lalitha, but this is also a playlist that is played at different Startup Weekends around the world (at least in the APAC area). Informing participants also of this fun fact promotes unity and one-ness with all the other Startup Weekend participants and instills the idea of “this is something bigger than me” within the participants.


These are some of the nice-to-haves that I’ve thought about that really helped me get my arsenal ready:

1. An extra phone

I found this really helpful especially when workspaces for participants are in separate rooms. I’ll talk more about this in another blogpost but it’s imporant to always make sure there’s background music in the workspaces and sometimes having an extra phone with music helps.

2. An extra speaker

With the same reason as above, it helps with the music for multiple work spaces if the venue doesn’t have a sound system.

3. Knowledge about the BMC

More often than not, if the organizers want to highlight the business model canvas, they most likely already have a speaker prepared to do a workshop on this. But in the off chance that they don’t and that you feel that this will give the participants more direction when conceptualizing their business model, then having prior knowledge on how to use the canvas helps.

Check this link out for the Business Model Canvas recommended by Startup Weekend and click this link to watch a video on how the Canvas works.

Hopefully, this breakdown has helped you visualize how you can contribute to the success of a Startup Weekend (aside from actually facilitating, of course). I know we’re doing this for free and occasionally out of our own pockets but putting some heart into everything you do won’t hurt anybody especially when you’re in a position to do a lot of good.

Next I’ll be writing about how I run Startup Weekends as an Organizer and what I often think about on the program for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Share your thoughts, I’d be happy to talk!


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