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The “No BS” Keynote Speaker

Sara Grillo NYC Financial Services Keynote Speaking Topic List

Hi there and thanks for visiting my page. My name is Sara Grillo and I am a financial services keynote speaker based in New York. I specialize in discussing financial communications.

Companies hire me to speak because I answer the following questions:

  • How can the client-facing people at my company get more attention from clients by using creativity instead of the same old cliche and jargon?
  • What does it take to communicate effectively in the modern age? How is this going to change over the next 5-20 years?
  • What are some mistakes that people at my company may be making as they communicate with clients, vendors, strategic partners, and each other?
  • As demographic groups within the financial industry change, how does my company need to change to be able to accommodate the up and coming people who will be playing a bigger role in the future?

Below you will find a list of my best talks. Contact me if you think your team would benefit from hearing about these. Each talk is 45 minutes long and the cost ranges from $5,000 to $10,000 depending upon location and other factors.


Each talk has to option to include stunt such as burning an insurance policy up on stage, chocolate fountain, karoake skit, etc. These are available upon request.

How to Throw Down on LinkedIn

Financial and insurance advisors 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 for advisors such as:

  • Messaging strategies that allow you to communicate with your online network and avoid coming across as 99% of advisors do, making them become part of the noise and causes people to want to ignore them
  • 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 of advisors

The internet is very powerful for advisors of all types who are trying to reach people of all types, but succeeding online takes skill and advanced knowledge that few advisors 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 Throw Down on YouTube

YouTube is one of the fastest growing search engines on the internet and an opportunity that very few financial advisors have not yet tapped.

In this seminar specifically designed for financial advisors, Sara will demonstrate techniques for getting your brand out on YouTube and finding new clients. You’ll learn:

  • Why YouTube is the #1 opportunity for financial advisor marketing in 2019
  • What the very few financial advisors who have been gigantically successful on YouTube have done
  • Why the rest of the competition won’t do this – and why you should!
  •  How to create a YouTube platform that will serve your target niche
  • Techniques for going about the more advanced strategies such as YouTube advertising
  • What not to do on YouTube

The Cool Way to Talk About Insurance

There’s nothing that makes people want to run the other way faster than a financial advisor trying to push insurance. In this joint presentation, Sara Grillo, CFA, and Barry Flagg, CFP® will break the pattern by teaching advisors how to communicate with higher integrity, transparency, and clarity when they speak about insurance to clients and 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” movement

This talk will include special effects such as Barry Flagg lighting a life insurance illustration on fire because that’s certainly a higher and better use of them than for product selection (Optional).

Getting That First Meeting with a Female Prospect

The fact that women are the gender of the future for advisors to focus on is well documented. There’s been a great deal of commentary from industry thought leaders about what women want and don’t want in an advisor.

What remains unaddressed, however, is the roadmap to the sale: the practical steps advisors can take and what they need to do in order to get in front of more qualified female clients. This talk will propose 5 specific marketing strategies for advisors to follow to get the first meeting with female clients.

Intended audience: female and male advisors of all types, broker/dealer, hybrid, RIA firm, independent, wirehouse, etc.

The COI Code: How to Talk to Attorneys and Accountants Without Sounding Tacky

Attorneys and accountants are some of the best possible referral sources for financial advisors, but very few are able to crack the code. This talk will cover how to crack in and get past the boundaries these COIs are putting up, why they are disconnecting from you, and how to communicate in a way that connects, empathizes, and allows them to see you as a valuable resources that can improve their business profitability rather than another advisor looking for a handout.

Advisors will learn:

  • How gaining more influence over the COI requires a deeper understanding of their business and the challenges they face.
  • Why COIs disconnect when you try to help them
  • Methods for financially empowering your COI partners by skillfully managing your practice
  • Best tips for understanding and defining the roles the COI and the advisor play in the financial planning process including consultative questioning methods that reinforce practice discipline
  • Questions not to ask a COI
  • How to maximize financial planning for the COI impact through wise practice management
  • Advice for positioning your practice as an advocate for the CPA
  • How to position yourself as a financial planning resource to them, one with answers that are available on an ongoing basis and through various methods.
  • How to do all of this in a way that makes you not sound tacky

A Guide to Talking to the Next Generation Children of Your Clients So They (Actually) Listen

The fact that Generations X and Y are the next generation of wealth is well-documented. What remains to be explored, however, is how advisors can best design their practices to communicate and build relationships with the next generations of their clients’ families. If not, fee compression and roboadvisors pose a very large competitive threat. Using the right words (as opposed to the dry cliché and jargon), using digital communication methods, and rethinking branding elements such as your attire and office design play an important part in reaching this population and ensuring continuity in your practice.

This presentation is highly interactive and includes quiz questions involving volunteers from the audience where chocolate and prizes are awarded for correct answers and calisthenics are required for incorrect answers (optional).

Workshop: The Toolkit for Building a Brand that is not a #FinancialCliche

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 sameness.

In this three hour 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.

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The “No BS” Way to Give a Keynote Speech

Most keynote speeches are BS and most keynote speakers aren't good unless they do the following things.

I used to be a keynote speaker. I have recently resigned from my past role in favor of what I believe to be a more beneficial way to deliver a speaking presentation.

Is this a Sci Fi novel?

You have now entered The Conference Zone, a dimension as vast as it is phony and as timeless as it is vapid.

It’s no exaggeration than these events are more like something out of a science fiction novel, a hyper-imagined reality created by overzealous marketing people (like me).

Another water bottle with a compliance firm’s logo on it? Oh, I can personalize it with my name? You know I have always wanted a water bottle personalized with my name. Then there’s some shot of people running around interviewing attendees with a headset on like they’re the air traffic control. Everything so staged for the conference wrapup series like those seventh grade bat mitzvah videos set to “Through the Years” by Kenny Rogers.

The speakers on stage as if they’re giving The Inaugural Address but the people in the audience look brain dead. I mean they literally look like they’re going to keel over from boredom. Even the people on the panels look brain dead.

Is this real life or are we on another planet? Here’s the reality about what all this grandeur really comes down to – and unfortunately it’s not much.

The reality is that people are forgetful by nature. Here’s an article from Rad Ed Asia that says that we humans forget half of what we learn within an hour, and even more by the end of the day. Do you doubt that to be true from your experience?

In my experience I’ve seen very little actually gets absorbed. Maybe for the first session of the day but not for anything after 11 AM. Nobody listens to anyone talk for more than seven minutes without taking an iPhone break.

So if this is true, here’s what the millions spent on conferences essentially means:

  • All the money the participants spend (airfare, hotel, time spent away from work, money spent caring for household in their absence) does not align with value gained
  • The money spent by conference organizers is really going not to the benefits of the participants but rather to create a forum to appease the exhibitors – the speakers and firms who exhibit at the pavilion (booth people) – who are essentially paying for the event.
  • Speakers are normally not paid (unless they are Simon Sinek or a famous athlete or a Navy Seal), and as a result they take to the podium with the sole purpose of advertising their product (without blatantly appearing to do so).  And they are very good at the art of subtly sliding their services into the discussion. If it’s a breakout room it’s worse.

I’ll admit – in the past as a keynote I maybe fell into this. Then one day I woke up to the fact that and asked myself these questions. Are we making progress here? Is anyone really being enlightened? Am I really doing anyone any good other than myself?


It’s a glorified vacation

Did you ever wonder why all conferences are held in places with palm trees?

Because if it were held in Detroit in the middle of February then nobody would go! That’s not somewhere that anyone goes on vacation.

Admit it everyone. You go to a conference to go on vacation. Think about what you do on vacation:

  • Eat a lot of buffet
  • Drink alcohol
  • Take a lot of pictures
  • Sit down and relax
  • Walk around and look at things
  • Socialize with people you don’t know and will never talk to again
  • Stay in a hotel
  • You can bring a friend (Ever wonder why some people travel with their spouse to these things? Because they’re tagging on a day to the beginning and end and knocking out the whole week disguised as a business trip without having to count that as their family vacation!)
  • Go to a comedy event or a dance party the final evening and get royally sloshed because who cares you’re never going to see most of these people again

Not that much difference, is there?

Look, I get it. Everyone needs a break from life. Do you know that I honestly took a business trip one time to get away from my ex-boyfriend? If you need to go on vacation by yourself then just tell your spouse, pay the divorce fees, and forget about calling it a business trip.

The vacation buzz normally wears off normally within 20 minutes of you returning back to your email account after being gone for a week. Then you’re slugging down coffee and doughnuts barking at your intern for not sending out the holiday party invitations on time while you were gone.


You call it networking – but it is really just curiosity? People go to conferences for the same reason they go to high school reunions – to see, be seen, and find out how they stack up against the people in their peer group.

I want to see if I can meet someone powerful. I can impress them so they’ll think I’m cool. We’ll be so BFF. Maybe I can join the cool kids club. We can go to a secret dinner that only other cool people are invited.

Unfortunately we’ll all agree the people you are more likely to meet are the people running around trying to meet everyone and hand out their business card. You know, the vendors who want to convince you to sign up for a free trial of their trading platform? As much as you try to avoid those people most of the time that is who you end up talking to it seems.


Let me ask you this.

Would people go to conferences if there were a quiz on each topic that they would have to answer at the end? If you didn’t just get the CE credit but instead had to earn the credit?

Nobody would go.

I remember I once attended a training workshop and there was a test at the end that was reported to your boss (who paid the workshop fee.) Well we all found out about this quiz upon arrival and there were some people who went off the deep end. I mean, they really lost it.

My solution

Face it. At the end of the day, what you get out of a conference experience doesn’t warrant the time and money it costs to go. 

Here’s what I think can be done, and that I am personally going to do as a keynote speaker, to change things in the future. If you’re not a speaker but rather a participants or an organizer, there are items on this list as well.

Now what I’m going to tell you is going to cause many conferences to go out of business but I think that’s about right. I think many conferences shouldn’t exist. There are too many and like I said most are a waste of time. People can get their CE credits by taking online classes if they need to.

  • First of all, speakers have to be paid. Yes, that’s right. I don’t go to a Cardi B concert because I get to see some no name rapper who stinks whose record label paid the promoter for stage time. Cardi B is not paying to be on stage. She is the real thing, she is who people come to see. Give the people something to come and see and they will pay for it.
  • And how do you create that kind of a sensation? The selection process should be more stringent. They should be selected on the basis of the learning outcomes of their talks rather than just a pitch with a flashy title or their reputation. They should be required to submit an outline, a thorough point by point outline (almost like a college syllabus). If they pitch, self refer, or describe what they do with clients during the presentation, their pay should be withheld or reduced depending on severity.
  • If you can’t afford to pay speakers, then don’t hold a conference. Save everyone the expense and have a webinar instead. Use technology to build your following until you get enough interest where you can get thousands of people attending and then charge them to attend. No more conferences with 100 people in a room. More like 10,000.
  • Poll the attendees prior to the speaker’s talk and ask the audience what points they want the speaker to cover. Ever since I have started listening to my audience I have found that my talks align better and engagement is much higher.  Then tell the speaker to include those points in the talk. Since you are paying the speaker you should expect them to work for the money.
  • The talks should include a periodic review every 10 minutes. Literally have the speaker stop talking and review the key points. When you do this, you re-engage the audience. I also started doing this in my talks and found it made it harder to lose people.
  • Each talk should have a takeaway sheet. Now, I don’t mean some glossy big old brochure. I mean an index card. It should be an index card with the key points of the talk printed on it for each attendee to take home.
  • Each talk should have a quiz at the end that the speaker creates. Tests will be scored and reported to whoever paid for the participant’s ticket.

Sara’s Upshot

So now that I’ve resigned as a keynote speaker of the old regime I’ll have to call myself “A keynote speaker formerly known as Sara Grillo.” Thanks for reading and please refer here if you want more info on the no BS talks that I am planning to give this year.


Rad Ed Asia. (n.d.) Why you will forget more than 50% of what you learn within an hour. And how to change that. Retrieved on August 13th, 2019 from