One of the best tools for building awareness as a professional and increasing the visibility for your business is speaking. Speaking is the least expensive, highest-return marketing tactic you can use. There are five reasons that speaking is such a great return on your money:

    Speakers are marketed free of charge to the members of an organization, which by itself makes speaking worthwhile when you consider the cost of developing a database of contacts.Think about it: How many networking events you would have to attend to accumulate 100 new contacts? If you speak to an organization of just 100 members, you're already there. I am an expert networker and to accumulate 100 new contacts typically takes 5 to 10 events.

    Speakers don't have to pay to get in front of an audience. Depending on the size of the event you could save as much as $15 for a Rotary Club meeting to a couple of thousand for a conference.

    Speakers get to network with people they have never met.

    Speakers are viewed as experts by the attendees. Over the past 10 years, I have spoken an average of twice a month and my database now has more than 5,000 contacts.

    You'll get referrals for new speaking engagements. Usually, if you do a good job someone in attendance will recommend you to another group.

    Know Your Audience

    To be a successful speaker, you need to develop a good presentation that focuses on subjects that business professionals look to for new ideas or insights on how to perform their jobs better. My wife and I ran an online speakers bureau (www.expertspeakers.net) that we sold in the spring to

    SpeakerMatch

    . Here are the top 10 subjects requested by the more than 3,000 organizations who accessed our database:

      Buying businesses

      Coaching

      E-commerce

      Hiring people

      Management

      Marketing

      Motivational

      Public relations

      Sales

      Raising venture capital

      Hone Your Craft

      Good speakers make it look easy, just as radio announcers appear to be just causally speaking, but there is a lot of work that goes into being a good communicator. Successful speakers have to have or develop the following skills or attributes:

      Expertise in their field

      : Aside from being motivational speakers -- who are entertainers for the most part -- speakers need to be bona fide recognized experts in their field. Usually organizations are looking for someone with at least 10 years of experience.

      Good storytelling

      : No matter what the subject, if you want to hold the audience's attention, you have to be a good storyteller. People love to listen to a good yarn that holds their attention. Who were the best teachers in high school and college? The ones who had the best communication style!

      Good sense of humor

      : Being able to joke with the crowd and having a give-and-take with the audience keeps them involved and invested in the presentation.

      Well-organized thoughts

      : Once you stumble around, you have lost all credibility along with the audience.

      Good grooming

      : Audiences like to hear well-dressed and -groomed speakers. It gives the speaker an air of authority.

      Enjoy entertaining people

      : You have to appear as if you genuinely enjoy interacting with people.

      Willingness to stay to meet people

      : Every organization appreciates speakers who are willing to take the time to speak with the audience, which is also when you make your best contacts. I have typically gotten four to six new clients every time I have spoken.

      A good way to develop a speaking practice is to start off by offering to speak at Rotary Clubs and regional Chambers of Commerce. These organizations are always in need of speakers. If you are an author of a book or have written a white paper on a topic, raffle off copies in exchange for business cards so you can build your database. Send everyone who attended a copy of your PowerPoint presentation.

      There are a few books I recommend if you are interested in using speaking as a marketing tool:

      Lastly, join

      Toastmasters

      , which will help develop your speaking skills. There are chapters all over the world.

      TheStreet.com has a revenue-sharing relationship with Amazon.com under which it receives a portion of the revenue from Amazon purchases by customers directed there from TheStreet.com.

      Marc Kramer, a serial entrepreneur, is the author of five books and is an instructor at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton's Global Consulting Practicum, where he serves as Country Manager for Chile.