Motivational Seminars 101: Distinguished Speakers Series Q & A

If you’re like me you are always trying to find a new place to gain motivation. If you’re not, well you are because you landed on this blog! One thing that I find my self searching for is motivational seminars. I always want to go to them but have no idea how to find them. I’ve lived in different states and even if you are in your home town it can be hard to find a good seminar to go to.

Good news to everyone in the Southern California area, I found a seminar for you! It’s called Distinguished Speakers Series. You actually subscribe to it and get to see multiple speakers over a period of a few months and it’s affordable. From his His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Magic Johnson,  you get inspired by the greats. What I love about this series is it’s for the person who doesn’t know how to find speakers, they have a line up for you of amazing people. You get the opportunity to experience wisdom from people you may have never even heard of but all equally powerful in their message.

I got the opportunity to go to one of their seminars where Magic Johnson spoke, click here to see 5 Things I Learned From Magic Johnson About Business.

Now onto this wonderful seminar. I spoke Kathy Winterhalder who owns the series with her sister Sue Swan:


Q: What was the inspiration behind starting the series?

KW: We had a family friend who had started a series like ours up in the Bay Area. Our parents were one of his first subscribers.  They didn’t stop raving about the experience. His series quickly sold-out and he expanded to cities around the Bay Area.  We did our research and realized that there was really nothing like it in Southern California.

Q: Did you have a different career before this? Did you ever think you would be doing something like this? Why or why not?

KW: Yes, I was a University Administrator overseeing Alumni Relations and Development and Sue Swan (my sister and partner) was a Hollywood casting Director.  Our parents who also helped us start the business 20 years ago were retired and re-entered the workforce to help out. I have always been entrepreneurial. But the experience working in non-profit and later at the University gave me marketing and sponsorship experience.  Sue had experience negotiating contracts with actors and their agents, so she had knowledge and experience when we began booking speakers.  But it was actually the birth of my twins and my decision to stay at home with them, that created the environment for us to come up with a family business that we all could use our expertise, allow me to work out my own schedule to be an active mom and work together as a family.

Q: How do you decide on their yearly lineups?

KW: We survey our audience.  There are about 300 names on the survey, broken into categories.  We ask our subscribers to vote for their top 20.  We then go to work to create a balanced and exciting line-up, see if the speakers are available to speak three nights in a row, and if they fit within the budget.

Q: What do you enjoy most about your work with the series?

KW: Meeting and spending time with the most amazing people in the world! I pinch myself all the time.  I would say the second most enjoyable thing is bringing these individuals to our communities.  It’s a big deal to bring someone like Margaret Thatcher to Redondo Beach. And it was an even bigger deal to bring His Holiness the Dalai Lama to a small group like our 3,000 patrons in Pasadena.

Q: Why do you think your subscribers remain so loyal?

KW: Quality of the speakers we bring year after year.  We try to get thought leaders and brilliant speakers. Our subscribers have learned over the years that it isn’t always the “A-list headliner” that is the most inspiring speaker.  Our patrons are a discerning group and  look at our series as educational entertainment.  There really isn’t anything like it.

Q: How can new subscribers can register with the series?

KW: Visit our website and get on our mailing list if you are interested in our Pasadena or Thousand Oaks Series. If you are interested in our South Bay Series (Redondo Beach), that Series has been sold-out for the past 11 years.  It takes about 2-3 years to get into that Series.  We will be announcing the launch of our 4th location on the Westside in about 4 weeks.

Q: Can you explain your work with local high schools?

KW: We call the program Share the Vision.  We are very proud of this.  Over the past 19 seasons, we have invited over 40,000 high school students to be our guest to experience a speaker.  This program is for high school age students only.  The request must come from a school official, teacher or an adult supervisor from organized club or group.  The minimum is 10 students plus chaperone.   Because these students sit amongst the subscription paying patrons they must be chaperoned and stay until the very end.  The feedback we get is so heartwarming.  Our hope is that exposing these children to such inspiring individuals, it might change their outlook and possible life and career path.


Left to right, Co-owner of The Series, Sue Swan, Robert Redford, and Co- Owner Kathy Swan Winterhalder

Q: What has most inspired you to start this?

KW: We too get so much inspiration from our speakers.  How could you not be inspired by the accomplishments of Steve Wozniak, the writings of Maya Angelou (we were lucky enough to present her twice), storytelling and performance by Yo Yo Ma, some great American Generals like Tommy Franks, Holocaust Survivor Elie Wiesel, passion for film and the environment like Robert Redford, leaders who changed our world like Mikhail Gorbachev and Bill Clinton.  I can go on and on…

Q: What is something you learned from the speakers and creating the series that surprised you?

KW: They are actually people just like us.  Also regardless of the political party our leaders love our country! They are very kind backstage and want to put on a good show.  They always come prepared and actually almost always want to know what our patrons would like them to speak about.

Q: What are the top 3 tips you would give someone for how to live a more successful life? 

KW: It’s a cliché but… “Do what you love and the money will come!”,  “Make sure that you give back, you will get it back three-fold”, “Value and listen to your customers, without them there is no business.”

Q: What makes you guys different from other seminars?

KW: We are open to the public, anyone can buy a series.  We make a point of not selling anything except our subscriptions.  Many of the seminars presented are really about selling books, tapes and other merchandise.  Also, our subscribers don’t necessarily want to experience the person who wrote a book about it, they want to hear from the person who actually did it.  Our subscribers are offered an intimate experience which most often includes a speech and a Q&A session where the speaker answers questions that our audience supplies.

Q: Has there ever been anyone in the audience that surprised you (like a celebrity?)

KW: We actually have lots of celebrities who are subscribers.  They are just like us and want to learn and experience the Distinguished Speaker Series

Q: Who is someone you want to speak that hasn’t yet.

KW: That list is huge… I could go on and on… That is why we hope to be around another 20 years.  Luckily there will always be Ex-World leaders and politicians, good storytellers, scientific discoveries, authors  and adventurers we don’t even know about yet.

The Distinguished Speaker Series of Southern California really has it all. It makes it easy to find the perfect motivational speaker, they are always bringing amazing people to the table. I encourage you to check it out and sign up. You are who you surround yourself with. It’s important to keep your mind active and to always learn. The more inspirational people you surround yourself with the more inspired you will become.

To sign up for The Distinguished Speakers Series click here.

Surround yourself with people who are going to lift you higher.” – Oprah Winfrey


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