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Meetups are a great way to network, learn new tricks and polish your presentation skills. And if you live in Chicago, London, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco or Richmond, Va., you’re in luck. Those cities already have Axure Meetups you can attend.

But what if you don’t live in those cities? You can organize your own Axure Meetup. It takes a bit of work, but to get you going, we interviewed several top organizers to share their best tips and tricks for putting together an awesome and rewarding Meetup Group.

Why go to all the trouble?

Sandra Gonzales, the London Axure Meetup Organizer, gets this question a lot. Sandra says she has gotten job offers, invitations to speak and a reputation as a user experience design expert. But those were just the side effects. The real reason Sandra started an Axure Meetup was that she wanted to meet like-minded people, share her knowledge and learn from others.

How do I score a venue?

Start small.

If you’re just aiming for a casual social mixer, a local cafe or bar is a good choice. If you need a quieter space, try the local library. That’s where Stefani Sandow, the Chicago Axure Meetup Organizer, chose to locate her first Axure Meetup two years ago.

How do I get people to come?

Related Meetup.com topics. When you set up your Meetup page, you’ll be asked to select topics that are relevant to your group. This step is critical, because once you’ve created your group, Meetup will promote your group to members who have subscribed to those topics. It’s a great chance to get a free marketing boost.

Event cross-promotion. Beth Wegner, organizer of the Los Angeles Axure Meetup Group, also suggests reaching out to related Meetup groups to help cross-promote each other’s events. In L.A., Beth works with LAUX, a popular user experience group. And in Chicago, Stefani and Adam have reached out to the local IXDA Chapter to help spread the word.

Social Media. Social media is also a good way to increase awareness. “Whenever I am at a conference or workshop, there’s usually a hashtag for the event. I use the hashtag and say something like, ‘Speaking of prototyping, here’s a shameless plug for our Axure Meetup,’ with a link” to information on the group, said Sandra. Others use social media to remind folks to come before the event and keep the conversation going after the event.

What do I do at the event?

Coming up with fresh, engaging topics and activities is possibly the biggest challenge for Meetup organizers. Here are some ideas:

Reverse Engineering. Stefani and Adam came up with the idea of showing a prototype on a screen and challenging people to create it. They divided people into teams, being careful to pair up people who are new to Axure with Axure Fu Masters. This overcomes one of the recurring issues that crop up — how to engage people along a wide spectrum of proficiency. “Axure is so versatile that there could be five or more ways to skin the cat,” said Stefani. “People come up with different ways to build the same thing, so we get to all learn something new.”

Real World Problems. Ask people to come with a current issue they’re struggling with. The collective brain power in the room can be put to the test!

Case Studies. Past projects make for great case studies. Speakers can talk about how they tackled a design challenge, the roadblocks they faced and conquered along the way and the results.

Invite Guest Speakers. This helps shift the onus of having to come up with new content for every event. Authors who have just published a book on a related topic are often very willing to speak. Another source of potential speakers are local colleges and universities. Researchers who have just published papers on relevant topics can sometimes be persuaded to present their paper to the group.

Gather Ideas. The best time to get new ideas for your next event is during your current event. That’s when people are most focused and interested. One way to do this is by working the room and canvassing their interests. If someone comes up with a smashing idea, don’t be afraid to ask them if they can present it.

Can Axure help?

Yep! Just get in touch with us using the form on this page.

We’ll help you pay the Meetup.com fees and even pick up the tab for pizza. We’ll also send you a care package of swag that you can hand out at your event. Be sure to contact us three to four weeks before the event to make sure we have enough time to send you the goodies.