Online Keynotes & Workshops During COVID

Debby speaking in front of a slide of a white group of business men

Hire Debby

Are you working during COVID’s travel and gathering restrictions?

Yes! Thanks to Zoom and a few other cool online teaching tools, I am fully operational. Let’s keep the work going in this historic moment. The time is NOW like never before. We are in an extraordinarily teachable moment.

How do you do what you do online?

I am finding that online events are no less impactful than in person. Rich learning, conversations, and next steps thinking/planning are all available to us in virtual space. My Zoom platform allows for 100 participants. For groups beyond 100, we can use your Zoom, Shindig, Whova, or any platform that allows for screensharing and, ideally, small group discussion. When small groups are not available, we make vigorous use of the chat and/or participant comment function/s. Retooling my trademark, visually rich, interactive presentations for online has been surprisingly easy. I am so grateful for the tech whizes who created all these amazing interfaces.

What will the costs look like?

Fees vary based on organization size and type as well as scope of engagement. I offer pro bono engagements to woman of color led organizations and initiatives.

Can I see examples of your talks?

The best way to get a sense of my voice and message is to check out my media page.

For engagement inquiries, click here.

To set hosts up for success, Debby designs her engagements based on their specific needs. Below are some of the building blocks she uses. Please note: this is not a menu. Debby's process is highly personalized.

Cornerstone Offerings

5 smiling cast members from TV show "Father Knows Best"

I’m a Good Person! Isn’t That Enough?

2 hour presentation with time for community conversation. Can be shortened to work as keynote or webinar and expanded to include more dialog and reflection.

Using historical and media images, Debby examines how she used her white-skewed belief system to interpret the world around her. Socialized on a narrow worldview, Debby explores how she spent decades silently reaffirming harmful, archaic racial patterns instead of questioning the racial disparities and tensions she could see and feel. This workshop is designed to support white people in making the paradigm shift from ‘fixing’ and ‘helping’ those believed to be inferior, to focusing on internalized white superiority and its role in perpetuating racism at the individual, interpersonal, institutional, and cultural levels. This presentation includes pauses for reflection, dialog, and Q&A.

Leveling the Playing Field: Interrupting Patterns of Power and Privilege

Alternate title: How to Explain White Privilege to a Skeptic

2 hour workshop, cannot be shortened but we welcome lengthening for more reflection and discussion time.

Using a series of pointed questions, Debby works with participants to build a graphic map of the groups people belong, and have belonged to, because of social locations and roles throughout U.S. history. Participants will think together about how various groups have and have not had access to rights, resources, representation, and respect, ultimately revealing the social positioning and impacts of white privilege and dispelling illusions of a level playing field. Once the graphic has been created, Debby then leads participants in an exploration of social dynamics and dominant cultural attitudes and behaviors that perpetuate power and privilege patterns, even when best intentions are in play. Ultimately this workshop explores how we can begin to level the playing field by interrupting common patterns of power and privilege. Participants will leave with two powerful tools to analyze power dynamics and cultivate transformative cultures in their circles of influence. This workshop is highly interactive and works for groups as small as 10 and as large as 150, as well as those new to the topic and those deeply versed in it. PREREQUISITE: Leveling the Playing Field is only available to those who’ve first participated in I'm A Good Person.

Debby Irving holden sign reading "I #Disruptracism by Busting WHITE Mythology!"

Seeing the Color Line: Examining Bias, Privilege, and Power

90-120 minute presentation/community dialog. 

The terms bias, privilege, and power are often misunderstood as stand-alone terms. Additionally, they’re rarely understood as a trio that can work together to embed racial inequity into the range of systems that impact everyone us in our daily lives. Through a series of exercises, short videos, and dialog, this session seeks to make visible the dynamics of bias, privilege, and power so that we can more skillfully identify how and when they may be influencing and undermining us as individuals and institutions seeking to create equity. PREREQUISITE: Seeing the Color Line is only available to those who’ve first participated in I'm A Good Person.

Transformational Conversations: Moving from Fear to Curiosity

90-120 minute workshop

Because dominant white culture encourages us to avoid conflict, many of us raised in it have not fully developed the insight, skill, and emotional stamina necessary to broach and navigate differences of perspective and opinion, especially when harm to a member of a marginalized group is part of the mix. Too often these conversations are completely avoided or broached only to go from bad to worse, leaving people in divided camps teeming with assumption and anger that further divides us and wreaks havoc on our communities. There is a different way. In contrast to the social norms of whiteness are norms designed to develop the vulnerability, skill, and courage necessary to create deep connection and resilience; ways of being that sustain and grow us personally and collectively. This workshop will explore how to embed new, transformational norms into our personal and institutional practices. PREREQUISITE: Transformational Conversations is only available to those who’ve first participated in I'm A Good Person.

Custom Workshops

Longer and multi-day workshops are available and combine elements of the above and below as well as additional material, exercises, reflections, and facilitated conversations designed to create a deeper experience and shift the racial power dynamics in your community. Contact Cynthia Pesantez for more information.

Collaborative Offerings

Decolonizing: Placing Indigenous Peoples in the Conversation

90-minute live conversation with Claudia Fox Tree followed by community dialog

Join Claudia Fox Tree and Debby Irving for a live conversation as they explore how U.S. narratives have shaped their understanding of themselves, one another, and the complex world we live in. No two conversations are alike as they step on stage with no agenda. Current events, in their own lives and in the larger world, inspire the organic conversation they engage in. Learn more here.

Tell Me the Truth: Exploring the Heart of Cross-Racial Conversations

90 minute on-stage conversation with Shay Stewart-Bouley (aka Black Girl In Maine) followed by community dialog

How can we speak openly and honestly in cross-racial conversations? What would such a conversation even look like? Shay Stewart-Bouley (Black) and Debby Irving (White) show us as they share racism’s impact on their lives and how cross-racial conversation has been instrumental in their own understanding of 21st-century racial dynamics. Shay and Debby will explore the common fears and pitfalls of cross-racial conversation that keep people isolated in their own racial groups, at the expense of personal, professional, and societal growth. They’ll also help audience members understand how interpersonal social patterns hinder organizations from living up to their own ideals for diversity. No two conversations are alike as they step on stage with no agenda. Current events, in their own lives and in the larger world, inspire the organic conversation they engage in. Finally, Shay and Debby will offer suggestions to create racial justice habits that can move us from isolated events to sustainable connections. Learn more here.

Not In My School! How White Supremacy, White Privilege, and Other Forms of Oppression Undermine Best Intentions

One to three 3-hour workshops with Dr. Eddie Moore, Jr. plus option of 2 hours leadership coaching with Debby and Dr. Moore

Easily adaptable to non-educational organizations and corporations 

Why do racially charged events drive our school communities apart? How can they be used instead as teachable, community-building moments? As the ongoing surge in highly visible racial incidents impacts students differentially along racial lines, schools have a unique opportunity to deepen understanding of self and society as well as develop campus engagement. This interactive and challenging all-day workshop explores how these headline stories relate to the impacts that power, privilege and oppression can have on student and family engagement, teacher preparation, curriculum development, and everyday campus interactions. We will explore U.S. institutional history, media messaging, and cultural habits that have led to where we are today. With raised awareness, we’ll develop new skills and habits for sustainable, effective personal and institutional transformation. Learn more here.

The Color of Culture: Reshaping Ourselves and Our Communities for Racial Equity

Three hour to all-day workshop with Tiffany Taylor Smith

Without a shared framework to understand U.S. history and dynamics of power and privilege, institutional and individual hopes and initiatives for a more equitable world can be elusive. Good intentions can yield surprisingly lackluster results if we don’t have a grasp of the cultural context in which we are operating. What are the unwritten rules of success in U.S. culture? Who determines them? Monitors them? Challenges them? Without making visible the unwritten rules of race, class, gender, religion, and other differences, patterns of power and privilege, we can — despite our best intentions –unknowingly reproduce them. Join us for a day of transformational learning about how cultural assumptions, communication styles, implicit bias, microaggressions, and ingrained social habits influence our daily experiences and shape our community cultures. Participants will leave with tools to better understand their personal and professional environments as well as to be effective equity change agents. Learn more here.


“Irving’s presentation was shocking and extremely raw. It informed audience members and sparked a yearning for more knowledge inside of many. Springfield College moves forward in working on its own diversity and inclusion every day, and having Irving come to speak was an opportunity for this campus to continue that process.” Caitlin Kemp, The Elephant in the Room at Springfield College

“Holy crap! BIGGEST thanks for last night! I couldn’t have been more pleased. I love the conversations that were had and the questions asked. Your talk was absolutely incredible. I know that many seeds were planted and nourished for further conversions and action to dismantle racism and white supremacy.” Sara Gerrard, Pastor, Old West Church Boston

“Debby is a dynamic speaker and educator who engages large audiences and small groups. She is expert in placing personal storytelling at the forefront of discussions, moving beyond the head to the heart in how we learn about and discuss race racism, and anti-racism.” Emily Schorr-Lesnick, Educator, Riverdale Country Day School

“Your presence was so important for so many reasons. You shared what only you can in your warm, open, and welcoming way that engages and melts the icy barriers of apathy and fear.” Karen Spiller, Food Solutions New England

Engagement Tips for Hosts

The best events are packed with intention setting and planning. Following are community engagement practices that previous hosts have used to set my visit up for maximum impact. When done well, the process you create around the engagement actually builds/expands your capacity; the process is part of the product.

Contact us for engagement inquiries using this form.