NHS Hack Day – What is a pitch, and who should do one?

This is a shadow copy of the blog post published on (NHSHackDay.com): (http://nhshackday.com/blog/posts/2018/01/17/everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know-about-pitching)

If you’re new to NHS Hack Day (and even if you’re not), the thought of pitching your idea to an entire room of people is quite daunting.

So who should pitch at NHS Hack Day? And what even is a pitch anyway…?

Let’s cover the what and who bits first.


What is a pitch?

A pitch is a short opportunity for a person to share a project idea to tempt others to work on it with them.

At the start of NHS Hack Day, anyone with a problem or project they think might be interesting to other attendees can speak for up to 60 seconds to explain it to the rest of the group.

Based on these short pitches, other attendees decide what they’d like to spend time on on during the weekend.

The pitches are short, and so it is not possible to use slides or to show demos on the projector. This is almost always a good thing — you can focus on making your explanation as clear to as many people as possible.

If you really need to show something (seriously, you probably don’t), you could hold up a sheet of flipchart paper (we’ll have lots of this) — but try not to over-complicate or over-think it 🙂


Who should pitch?

Short answer: Anyone.

Longer answer: This is an opportunity for anyone with an idea that they’d like to explore, or a problem they have in their day-to-day work, to tell a room full of smart and motivated people about it, with the aim of coming up with a joint solution, or even ‘just’ some more information about the problem.

The weekend will be a great opportunity for you to learn about what other people in your sector are doing, and how they’re addressing the problems they face; but of course this will work best if everyone buys in.


I’m still not sure

Ok, so now you know why you are totally someone who should pitch at NHS Hack Day, but you’re still not sure?

Here are some common concerns about pitching:

1. I’m not very good at presenting to audiences

Firstly, you are probably a whole load better at it than you think you are.

Secondly, the NHS Hack Day community does not attract polished speakers with years of presentation experience. It attracts people just like you and I, who have the same apprehensions.

The quick-fire pitching style is actually fun. It’s so different to a formal presentation that people won’t even think about the sort of things you’re worried about.

And if you’re still not sure: talk to an organiser or hang back down the queue a bit, watch some other people pitch first, and then see how you feel. Every hack event we’ve held has had at least one last minute idea pitched where someone gets inspired by the other pitches.

Lastly, no one will even notice if you decide not to go ahead. 🙂

If you think that talking through your pitch with someone might help, do get in touch with our team of volunteers on the event Slack, on Twitter, or at hello@openhealthcare.org.uk and we’ll be happy to try and help you.

2. My idea is not developed enough to be interesting or useful

This is just not A Thing!

The best ideas for an NHS Hack Day are those ones that have plenty of room to be developed. That’s why we’re at NHS Hack Day in the first place, right?

People come to NHS Hack Day for a number of reasons: to work on an idea or problem they have, to get stuck in helping other people develop their ideas, or just to learn about what’s happening and to meet people.

In any case, what you have to offer is valuable to the community – we promise.

Your pitch might be as simple as describing a problem that you’ve encountered, and there will be people in the audience for whom that is enough for them to get problem-solving with you.

You might have a clear idea, but feel like you haven’t developed the ‘how’ enough yet — that’s great! Tell the audience this, and ask them to help you work out the ‘how’. Again, this will be a really interesting proposition for some people.

Be careful here not to pitch a solution rather than a problem, see Tip 5 in our first blog (http://nhshackday.com/blog/posts/2017/11/15/top-10-tips-for-awesome-pitches) for more info on this!

There is no idea too small or too early to pitch – you’ll get a feel for this as soon as you see what other people are pitching.

3. My idea isn’t interesting enough, or the other ideas will be more interesting

“Interesting” is a personal thing. You really can’t guess what will or won’t be interesting to other people in our community.

NHS Hack Day often ends up with only some of the original pitches actually being worked on; this is entirely normal, and is a result of the self-organising that happens at these events.

It is possible that your pitch won’t make it all the way to the end of the weekend, but this is not a reflection of quality, interest, value, or you. You might even decide that you’d rather work on someone else’s idea (this happens ALL the time).


Go on, give pitching a go

Don’t be shy: do consider having a go at pitching. Your friends at NHS Hack Day are the best people you could do this with for sure.


And lastly, as always, if you have any questions about anything in this post (or indeed about anything else), do get in touch with our team of volunteers on the event Slack, on Twitter, or at hello@openhealthcare.org.uk and we’ll be happy to help.

NHS Hack Day 16 – London

Last weekend was the 13th NHS Hack Day (#nhshd) – superbly organised and hosted in London by Helen Jackson (@DeckOfPandas)  – and the 2nd #nhshd that I’ve attended.

My first #nhshd was in Manchester last year where a small group of us hacked an idea to help medical students get access to more hands-on learning opportunities – we called it SLOT (Supervised Learning Opportunities by Text). We agreed to continue with the project on after the hack day and we’ve just started a trial at Western General Hospital in Edinburgh – we’re keeping our fingers crossed that we get some interesting results.

There have been several blogs published since last week describing what it’s like to attend a NHS Hack Day and I think they’ve done a pretty good job – so I’m going to avoid repeating the same things and link to a few of them instead:

http://www.drgrimes.co.uk/?p=206

http://itsuite.it.brighton.ac.uk/rlr17/blog/?p=215

http://openhealthcare.org.uk/blog/2016/05/20/nhs-hack-day-13/

There were many excellent ideas pitches and I was really encouraged by the number of ideas that were focused on making a tangible change to the way and ease with which people can do their work.

I arrived with no preconceptions about the type of idea I would work on – only that I would actively avoid anything that was focused around sending people text messages (I’ve hacked around this a few times now).

I was particularly excited by a couple of the ideas:

  • The first was an idea to hack a real anaesthetic machine (brought to the venue) to get data from it directly and do useful things with it – we were told that currently information is normally transcribed manually from the machine to the patient records.
  • The second was an idea to hack an easily-deployable patient observation system which can be used in the field during health emergencies where you don’t have reliable power and connectivity – the example used was the Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa where using paper to record observations was both impractical and an infection risk.

The idea that I was ultimately drawn to was from Adhiraj who is a consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist working in London. He described a frustrating situation faced by clinicians working in mental health all over the country. We ended up prototyping a solution to help locate available mental health beds, and automate the process of requesting and accepting referrals.

We managed to demonstrate a working prototype by the end, and were lucky enough to be placed in the top three by the judges! A very satisfying end to the weekend 🙂