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Real Talk: Are Keynote Speakers Worth It?

Are keynote speakers worth the expense?

Let’s be real.

Getting a keynote speaker to come in and give a talk is such a hassle. Getting the right person, paying for transportation, meals, and their speaker fee, and coordinating the actual event – it’s no minor commitment. Above all, how do you know that the person is going to be able to really connect with your audience?

Honestly, why bother? After all this, the cost of having a lousy keynote is pretty high, the worst consequence being that you look bad in front of your audience, your clients, and your boss.

Should you hire a keynote?

The reality is that keynote speakers aren’t right for every organization. But when you do find the right one, they can be pretty amazing.

Here’s what they can do for you, that you can’t do on your own as a company:

  • Great companies know that whoever has the best talent is going to win. Like anything else that you invest in, talent requires constant upkeep to stay fresh.
  • Great speakers are tasked with one thing: getting their audience to do something that they have not been willing or able to do thus far.

But how do you make sure you can make this happen and get the ROI on your keynote that you want?

Making It Worth It

While you may think that the success of the talk depends on what the speaker does that day, the performance of the talk has a great deal more to do with how the speaker is selected.

For a listen of questions you should ask when you interview a keynote speaker, read “How to Select a Speaker Who Will Rock an Event” here.

In the meantime, here’s the summary. A good keynote should:

  • be prepared to handle technical difficulties that inevitably emerge during the course of the talk without losing connection to the audience
  • anticipate objections and use them as a foundation for driving home the point and increasing the audience’s motivation
  • prepare for the talk by researching the audience and finding out what they really want to know about
  • start and end the talk with a bang
  • situate the Q&A in the beginning and throughout rather than at the end of the talk (when nobody is listening)

Great Keynote Examples

Please see below for examples of some of the talks that I give. You’ll notice these are highly interactive and full of stunts and special effects.

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 sell them 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.

Advisors will learn:

  • The questions you should ask people that brings to light the truth about the last, largest, most-neglected, and worst-performing asset on their balance sheets
  • How to talk 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 get more referrals by clearly associating your brand with the “clients’ best interests” movement

This talk will include:

  • Live role play and participation from the audience in a game of “sell me this insurance policy”
  • Periodic 35 second dance breaks to avoid monotony
  • 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.

Pick from a choice of these special effects:

  • chocolate fountain with choice of fruit, Biscotti, or Amaretto biscuits
  • shower of $100 dollar confetti
  • fireworks display

Jumping Onboard with New Ways to Get Paid in 2019

Financial advisor compensation is changing and there are now more ways to get paid as an advisor than ever before. Learn what your advisors need to do in order to open up a world of possibility for creating multiple stream of recurring revenue in ways that the industry has not yet adopted, and the technologies that are powering them.

This talk may include features such as:

  • lighting a brochure on fire to signal the end of old advisor practice techniques
  • strobe lights
  • karoake game

How to Talk to COIs 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 your marketing pitch, 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.

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. Chocolate and prizes are awarded for correct answers and calisthenics are required for incorrect answers. Humor is also highly utilized in delivery of this workshop.

Sara’s Upshot

If you’d like to talk more about how my keynote speaking can be made to be worth it for your organization, please contact me here.

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The Painful Truth about Your Marketing Budget

There’s nothing worse than the feeling of throwing money down the drain. Unfortunately this is the experience that most advisors have with marketing. If you haven’t gotten the results you wanted in 2018, here is where you went wrong and how you should change your marketing budget in September to fix the problem.


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Should You Outsource to a TAMP?

There’s no doubt that the future of financial advising is digital. With so many flavors to choose from, deciding how to integrate technology into your practice is not simple. If you’re considering outsourcing to a TAMP, please read my interview with a former HighTower executive here.

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Shoot the Ball

What would the game of basketball be without the shot clock?

The shot clock was a rule that came about because teams would waste time once they got a lead. The team with the ball gets 24 seconds to take a shot or their opponents get the ball. The shot clock is what makes basketball exciting.

What if advisors followed a shot clock when it came to building their pipelines – one with 24 hours instead of 24 seconds?


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Should I Be Outsourcing My Investment Management?

The size of your practice will be limited if you try to be responsible for both investment selection and sales and marketing. Find a good external manager, take the cut on fees, and outsource the management of the investments. Then turn around and be obsessively thorough with your marketing efforts. In the long run your practice will be better for it.


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Is it Okay for Financial Advisors to Swear in Front of Clients?

Swearing is high risk, but it does the trick like nothing else can.

Several years ago I attended a 3 day long workshop about sales training. Now very few people know this about me but I’m not the world’s biggest technology person but nonetheless I found myself in a seminar given by a technology CEO about how to sell IT support services. It was an afternoon session, right after lunch, and so I found myself slipping into a coma.

I was about three seconds from dozing off and so wasn’t everybody else. The speaker sensed this and when somebody asked a question about how to suggest a server upgrade he retorted:

“Just tell him to get rid of the [explicit] thing! The whole [explicit] thing. Just tell him to throw that [explicit] piece of [explicit] in the [explicit] trash can!”

Needless to say I snapped out of my food coma. Unprofessional? Yes. But highly entertaining.

The point of this anecdote is that I wouldn’t suggest swearing all the time but once in a while you can use it to:

  • Get somebody’s attention when you’re being ignored
  • Add emphasis to a point
  • Make people laugh
  • Come across as real and authentic
  • Portray high conviction
  • Be a little edgy

Some guidelines for swearing:

  • Only use it selectively and in the right circumstances
  • You always run the risk that it will offend some people so chose the audience wisely
  • Never use swear directly when speaking about a person, (e.g. “he’s a—.”)
  • Keep in mind that once you do this, there’s no going back. If you write it in a blog or say it on a recorded line or a podcast, it’s out there forever. If you think this is not going to align with the future of your brand then it’s best to refrain.
  • Don’t assume that just because they swear, you can swear.

Sara’s Upshot

Swearing is a big no-no for advisors to do in front of clients, but if done correctly (and that’s a big “if”), swearing can set you apart from other brands that may not have the courage to be so raw. Just as the famous financial disclaimer goes: higher risk, higher potential reward.

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Is it Okay for Financial Advisors to Cry in Front of Clients?

I’ve talked before about how instead of being shrouded and veiled, advisors should come across in a more human and relatable way with clients and prospects. But how raw can get you before you step over the line –is it okay to cry in front of clients? Sometimes the authenticity can say more about your authenticity than any marketing pitch.

The Tears were Not Scripted

When I was an advisor years ago, I had a client who was a young couple that was expecting their first child. I had recently sold them an insurance policy when the wife was in the end of her second trimester. When I called the wife’s office to confirm something about her application, her secretary said that the woman had been rushed to the hospital earlier that week. She had given birth two months early apparently due to a bout of preeclampsia.

I stared at the receiver, stunned, unable to believe what I had heard.

A baby can survive as early as 22 weeks in gestation, but being so severely premature there are serious risks to both the baby and mother’s lives. As someone who had recently had a child, I felt this pain so deeply. It was always my worst fear that I would suffer a misfortune like this during my pregnancy.

I immediately called the husband who answered who very stoically told me what had happened. He sounded so catatonic as if he were in a state of shock. As I tried to discuss their insurance coverage, I couldn’t get the words out without breaking down and crying while my client remained silent on the other end of the line. I felt so selfish getting emotional in front of him. And what gave me the right to get so upset anyways? These people weren’t my family, for goodness sake, this was a business relationship!

I was overjoyed a few weeks later I received word that the mother and baby had recovered. The wife was home but the baby had to stay at the hospital for a few weeks. The next of our interactions were far more lighthearted. I gave them a baby gift and we continued on with our relationship but it was different. Whereas before they had been a little stand-offish, it was as if they had seen my true colors. They were warmer and more open with me as their advisor, all because of this experience where I had inadvertently shown them my raw emotion. Nothing I ever said about finance could have moved them this way.

What I took away from that experience is that being professional doesn’t mean you have to be a robot. Sometimes it doesn’t go according to the script when your heart takes over, but it’s those moments where clients feel you present as a human being in their lives. Once in a great while it may be exactly what they need.