Sara Grillo – financial advisor conference speaker

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Hi! My name is Sara Grillo. I am a CFA® charterholder, financial advisor marketing consultant, and financial advisor conference speaker. I specialize in radically motivational financial advisor keynote talks.

Sara Grillo, CFA is a highly fun and slightly crazy marketing consultant based in NYC.
I am an irreverent and fun marketing consultant for financial advisors.

I ain’t just another keynote speaker for hire

Before we get into what being a keynote speaker means to me and why I’m different than the other keynote speakers you may be thinking to hire, here is some information about my keynote speaker fees.

Cost for any of my motivational financial services keynote talks is $5,000 plus travel,  hotel, and meal reimbursement. If you’re interested based on what you’ve heard so far (which isn’t much), send me a message.

Talks are free for college students and MBA programs.

Ouch! That’s expensive, you say!

No kidding, and there’s a very good reason for that – because my talks are designed to be radically more effective than other financial advisor conference speakers.

If you want to learn why , keep on reading!

Let’s be real…financial services has a problem

The financial services industry is exactly that – an industry.

Not a profession.

An industry that seeks to maximize profit for its participants without real regard for the outcomes caused in the clients’ lives.

Look at the scandals in history and it seems like they keep resurfacing with different names.

  • Enron
  • Madoff
  • The mortgage crisis

What’s next – Bitcoin? NFT’s?

Probably. I mean, it’s not like we’ve reached some moral highground as an industry. Unfortunately, it’s a new song to the same dance; we’re not really doing anything remarkably different than what we’ve done in the past.

It bugs me. Finances are a huge source of anxiety for people. They seek help and what do they get.



But far more often than not, they get its close cousin: self-serving advice riddled with conflicts of interest and bias designed to make the systems profit at the expense of the consumer.

But I am sure that financial services has a real problems in the eyes of the public. It’s earned its reputation as being an industry that lacks focus on creating positive outcomes for the client by putting their interests first.

That’s where I come in.

With my no-BS style, I clarify the pitfalls and propose creative, clear solutions that are human-focused and natural for financial services professionals to implement.

I’m looking to change the nature of financial advice

My goal is to improve the ethical foundation of communications and practice management within the financial advice industry as a whole: financial advice, asset management, trading, banking, and all of the areas in between.

Much of the work I do involves teaching financial professionals how to communicate in a way that prioritizes the client, eliminates jargon, and is based upon empathy. I deliver this through e-books, consultative services, and keynote speaking.

Let’s get more into how I deliver my mission of improving ethics in the financial services industry through speaking at financial advisor conferences (and I do a few other things as well, such as blogging and podcasting on financial advisor marketing and practice management topics.

I’m not just there at the financial advisor conference to make a buck

Here’s how I define a keynote speaker:

A keynote speaker is someone who motivates others with their words and actions as delivered in live presentation. Successful keynote speakers are able to impart relevant knowledge to the audience that causes a dramatic and permanent shift in their behavior for the benefit of society.

-Sara Grillo, CFA

I take a radically different approach to creating my talks than other financial advisor conference speakers do, because being a keynote speaker is a role that I take very seriously.

Let’s be real: my talks ain’t cheap. That’s because I make a point to do a ridiculous amount of preparation work, so that I deliver a more lasting and impactful talk than the others.

My goal is to make permanent change, and I know that in order to do that I have to deliver more to the audience.

Sara Grillo is shown speaking at the investment & Wealth financial advisor conference a few years back.

What a keynote speaker IS NOT (at least in my book)

Here’s what the definition of keynote speaker does not include:

  • Getting up on stage and put on a show to further my own cause.
  • Having the presentation be about the speaker, their business, their reputation, or their ego.
  • Being able to sell a book, service, or product of yours to the audience.

Unfortunately most keynote speakers for hire don’t subscribe to these beliefs!

Anyone looking to hire a keynote speaker should be aware that many of them fail by focusing so much on the delivery and the bells and whistles at the expense of relatability and relevance. You can be the most motivational keynote speaker out there, but if if the audience doesn’t connect, it’s useless and (let’s be real) BORING! Those are the lousiest ones and hiring them as a keynote speaker is a decision that many financial advisor conference organizers regret.

I mean, if someone is not going to customize the talk they give, why hire them? Why not just show a video of them speaking at another conference – because it’ll be no different from the talk they gave at the last financial advisor conference!


So now let’s get to how I make my keynote talks relevant to the audience.

What makes someone a top financial advisor conference speaker?

In a nutshell, what makes me a radically different financial advisor conference speaker is the degree of customization that I put into each presentation.

Here are some examples of how I make intentional effort and put higher focus into my prep to ensure that my talks are different:

  • Before the talk, I poll your audience weeks ahead of time and study the results. This is to get a sense of what is on their minds and what questions they want me to answer.
  • I stop and review every 10 minutes because (let’s be honest) – most people aren’t going to pay attention after 7 minutes.  I design my talks to support the retention of information.
  • I talk for a total of 30 minutes throughout the allotted time. The rest of the time is spent answering questions, roleplays, or other methods of having audience members participate actively.
  • I conduct Google research on the types of questions people like your audience search for about the topic
  • I send participants home with a short list of takeaways to jog their memory.
  • I give the audience a quiz at the end. This is to promote retention, outline the key points, and correct any misunderstandings.
  • I follow a code of ethics in all I do and all representations I make as a keynote speaker.
  • I ask the event organizer if audience members need accommodations so that my speeches can be accessible to people with disabilities.
  • I use humor to connect with people (don’t underestimate the power of making people laugh!)

Moreover, I’m one of the more relatable keynote speakers out there. I make it a point not to be talking at people but rather with them. This makes me dramatically different from other speakers who just want to pocket the fee and jump on the plane!

Financial advisor conference talks for 2022-2023

Here are the talks I’m able to be hired for as a keynote speaker in 2022. As my background is in investment management and financial planning, I am best considered a financial advisor conference speaker; however some of these talks can be expanded to a general financial audience.

I can not emphasize enough that unlike other keynote speakers for hire, I don’t use a “one size fits all” approach to giving my keynote talks. These financial services keynote talks will be customized to your audience through my diligent process outlined above.

The future is flat (fee)

The age of the flat fee advisor has come upon us, and it is the next step in the fiduciary evolution of the industry. This talk will educate financial advisors as to:

  • The benefits and drawbacks of the flat fee model
  • How to know if it’s right for your practice
  • Some flat fee success stories
  • Pricing vs. valuation proposition and how to make it work in a fixed fee context
  • Marketing tips and special strategies specific to flat fee advisors

I’m really passionate about this topic. You can read more of my views here:

Financial advisor flat fee podcast

The price you will pay for ignoring flat fees

Financial Marketing for people who HATE Marketing

Look, I don’t blame you. This talk will teach some low risk, easy methods requiring minimal resources and time for financial professionals who hate marketing.

You’ll learn about:

  • Why you don’t have to be a quick talking, cold calling, dinner-seminar obsessed sleazebag!
  • The easy 4 Step “OATS process”: Observe, Assess, and speak in Two Sentences
  • Why everyone hates being marketed to, but everyone loves being communicated with – and how to do it so that you come across as the latter (communicator) not the former (marketer)

At the core of it, this is a talk about how to communicate in a way that lets the prospect lead and reduces the amount of time and money thrown away on people who won’t see the relevance of what you have to offer.

Introducing the Two Sentence Rule. Cut!

The future of financial communication is brief, and it is digital.

Let’s face it. Most financial professionals hate marketing. And most prospects hate getting pitched. Is there any way to solve this disconnect?

The solution is empathy. We have to create a space where both parties can listen and breathe. While this may seem simple enough, for decades people have tried and failed in all walks of life at this.

Do you agree?

Although it may seem simple, most people aren’t able to get their point across in 2 sentences. Try it once and you’ll see what I mean.

This talk will teach people:

  • Why this is the new way of communicating in years to come
  • The process for distilling any thought down into 2 sentences
  • Examples of how to apply the 2 sentence rule to the websites of members in the audience – LIVE example
  • How to create a stunning 2 sentence LinkedIn or Facebook messages that will engage new prospects – LIVE example
  • Why a 2 sentence elevator pitch is better
  • The 3 different formats for a 2 sentence elevator pitch
  • 2 sentence voicemail examples – LIVE example
  • How to apply the 2 sentence rule to your LinkedIn, Facebook, or company page on social media

Non Verbal Signs Someone is Lying

Let’s face it. Not everyone is 100% truthful when negotiating a major transaction involving the business that represents their life’s work. How do you really know that what the person on the other side of the table is telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?

Remember that our bodies are always communicating even when we aren’t talking.

In this talk the participants will learn:

  • The parts of the brain that control our body language and fight/flight response
  • Nonverbal cues that give away when someone is lying or there is an issue with something you said
  • Linguistic patterns that convey deception
  • Signs you are dealing with a manipulator, narcissist or other dangerous personality type
  • Body language solutions for when you find yourself in a difficult conversation with someone

How to be on LinkedIn without sounding like a washing machine salesperson

This is one of the top LinkedIn keynote speeches out there.

Financial professionals report limited success reaching new clients or recruits through online platforms such as LinkedIn and Facebook. In this seminar, you will learn techniques that have been proven to create new opportunities such as:

  • Messaging strategies that allow you to communicate with your online network and avoid coming across like you are selling washing machines
  • Follow up strategies to stay in touch with your online network spanning multiple methods (newsletter, phone, etc.) that integrate with your online brand, reinforce your value and key messaging points, and move you one step closer to your target
  • Branding strategies that will convey a powerful message with words that go beyond the typical industry jargon and set you apart from the rest.

Succeeding online takes skill and advanced knowledge that few have. This seminar will fill in the gaps suffered widely across the industry and provide a remarkable advantage to those who are willing to integrate this knowledge into their practices.

How to sell insurance (without sounding like a sleazebag)

There’s nothing that makes people want to run the other way faster than a financial advisor trying to push insurance. In this talk I teach advisors how to communicate with higher integrity, transparency, and clarity when they speak about insurance to clients and centers of influence (COIs) within their practice.

Advisors will learn:

  • The questions you should ask clients and COIs within your practice to bring to light the truth about the last, largest, most-neglected, and worst-performing asset on their balance sheets
  • Integrating talks into your practice about the numbers that matter – how including certain metrics can lead to higher insights about the true costs and performance of people’s life insurance policies.
  • How to use Prudent Investor principles to eliminate the competition still using misleading, inappropriate, and unreliable policy reviews
  • How to align your practice with the “clients’ best interests” principles

Workshop: The Toolkit for building a financial brand without the BS

The ability to differentiate yourself as a financial advisor matters now more than ever. Yet most advisor branding is a constant stream of jargon, cliché, and BS.

In this workshop, advisors will learn:

  • What qualifies as a valid brand vs. an invalid brand
  • How to design a LinkedIn page that expresses your brand and attracts attention
  • How to explain what you do without sounding like a cliché
  • 6 phrases not to use when you talk about what you do
  • Email and out of office messaging with style and personality
  • How style of dress, personal grooming, office design, and pets can be used to reflect your brand
  • Blogging, podcasting, and other content strategies that should be done in a cliché-free fashion, and how to achieve this

This presentation is highly interactive and includes quiz sessions involving volunteers from the audience.

Ready to hire a RADICAL keynote speaker?

Just don’t give me the lunch spot (please!)

Here I am speaking; although not at a financial advisor conference, it was still a great keynote.

The bottom line is that I’m not in it for the glory. I’m in it because I want to make permanent and real change in society, and I’m willing to outresearch, outwork, and out prepare the other financial advisor conference speakers to make my talks of highest relevance to your audience.

My past speaking engagements include:

  • CFA Society Dayton
  • CFA Society Orange County
  • CFA Western Region Conference 2019
  • iFast
  • Investments & Wealth Institute (IMCA)
  • Sudden Money Institute
  • Advisor Perspectives
  • Green Circle 
  • Allied Wealth Partners
  • Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts®
  • Vestmark
  • LPL
  • Forest Hills Financial Group

I only give three in person keynotes a year. There is currently a waitlist for 2023; if you are interested please contact me to be added.

But what about my cred?

I know, I know, you don’t know if I really am what I say I am. Here’s what I propose.

#1 References are available on request.

#2 Here’s what a few financial professionals are saying about my financial keynote talks.

“Sara is an electrifying speaker who worked hard to research our audience and ensure the presentation was customized to our group. She was able to connect and inspire us in a way that most other speakers can’t.”

-David A. Perlmutter, Managing Partner, Forest Hills Financial Group

“Sara’s presentation to IDFA was interesting, entertaining and contained real takeaways for our members.  Her webinar was one of our most highly-rated practice management webinars and I strongly recommend her.”

-Carol Lee Roberts, President, Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts® (IDFA)

“Sara brings a fresh & honest perspective of real-time topics to financial professionals. She stirs the pot, which gets even those poor souls beaten down by compliance to engage in today’s issues!”

-Shon Anderson, CFA Society Dayton

“Gave me some good ideas . Well done!”

-Anonymous participant on a 2019 webinar

“If you are looking for someone to help you navigate LinkedIn in a practical, hands-on way Sara is the answer!  She is professional, knowledgeable, and really gets down to the basics to help advisors start to use LinkedIn the right way to attract new business.”

-Nancye Bailey, Executive Director, Financial Planning Association of Charlotte

“Wow! Most valuable webinar I’ve heard in a long time! Thank you!”

-Anonymous participant on a 2019 webinar

“Sara spoke at an event hosted by the Investments & Wealth Institute for high-end financial advisors from diverse channels. She made her presentation interactive and engaging, which provided a unique and useful experience for attendees. Sara was also well-prepared and easy to work with.”

-Devin Ekberg, CFA, CPWA, CIMA, Chief Learning Officer, Investments & Wealth Institute

“Sara is a top-notch speaker. We have hired her to present webinars for our audience. She is lively, engaging and has a strong grasp on the technical details of the materials she presents. I highly recommend her as a speaker for your event or webinar.”

-Bob Huebscher, CEO of Advisor Perspectives, the Leading Interactive Publisher for RIAs, Wealth Managers & Financial Advisors

How to hire me as a keynote speaker for your financial advisor conference

Cost for any of these keynote talks is $5,000 plus travel,  hotel, and meal reimbursement. Talks are free for college students and MBA programs.

If you are not sure if I am the best keynote to hire for your conference or event, I’d be happy to have a conversation and see.

Thanks for reading. I hope you’ll at least join my weekly newsletter or connect with me on LinkedIn to stay in touch.

See you at the podium!

-Sara G

Any questions? Send 'em in!