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Take control of your writing and speaking events using all those business cards you’ve been collecting over the years, the ones you tossed in a drawer and forgot about. Wait before throwing them. Those business cards are a valuable professional resource for your writing and speaking business.

Like most people, for many years I collected business cards from people that I later did not remember and had forgotten the circumstance or occasion in which I met them. Needless to say, the cards became so useless that I couldn’t even email people to remind them how they met me. This problem led me to start a new habit: make a note on the back of the business card to remind me where to put the person.

The first thing I did was collect all the letters from the different places where I had thrown them. I then grouped them by category, such as lawyers, doctors, business owners. Once I had the groups established, I tied them together with rubber bands, quickly realizing that stacks of business cards held together with rubber bands would not be useful.

On a visit to an office supply store, I noticed cheap, three-hole punched plastic business card sleeves to hold my collection of cards. I also bought enough sleeve folders to satisfy my categories. Put your attorney cards in a folder; doctor cards in another folder; and so. Be sure to label your binders on the front and spine so that when the binders are on the shelves you can tell the doctor’s card binder from the attorney’s card binder.

When I finished assembling and labeling my folders, I had an impressive collection of contacts, clients, and leads on the shelf. Ok, now that the business cards are organized, now what? I opened a folder, studied the cards and decided I didn’t have time to enter each one by hand into my computer and I didn’t want to spend money hiring someone to do it.

The decision was easy. I purchased a business card scanner and software that would simplify entering my folder information into an electronic filing system, which I could then transfer to email address books and other date systems. Some scan in full color and others only in black and white. Everything helps you easily categorize, organize, and track your contacts digitally. With the notes to myself that I made on the back of the cards, I can make a note in the software about the contact entry. After entering my contact details into a digital form, I saved a working copy to my hard drive, printed a hard copy of my paper contacts, threw away the cards, and recycled my sleeves and binders for a new batch of cards.

Now that I have my digital data in a usable format, I can use these contacts to create contact lists for traditional mailing lists and email lists for newsletters I distribute and for events I sponsor to showcase my work and sell my books. . Speaking events can be in the form of book signings or seminars, both of which are fantastic ways to showcase yourself as a public speaker.

If you have an office in a building, you can secure conference space for free or for a nominal fee. Pick a great topic: your book! Marketing your book is as easy as placing copies on a table in the back of the room for sale along with copies of your most recent newsletter, which can also market your book.

Collect new business cards in a handy office supply business card holder that sits on the table. Whip up some gourmet coffee and pick up some exotic pastries and, for a very nominal investment, you can build your actual engagement list and give them the opportunity to network, using those business cards you tossed in a drawer and forgot about.

Now, you can enter the field of public speaking without having to wait for an invitation to give a talk or contribute to a newsletter. Your collection of contact details in digital form, organized into neat categories, allows you to send out your own regular newsletter and encourage a few of your contacts to bring a guest to hear you speak at a free event. Be sure to ask for RSVPs, in case it becomes more popular than you thought possible. Remember to use the public speaking event as an opportunity to receive free publicity for the book.

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