TEDxUGA 2023 Curation and Preparation

Led curation and preparation for two TEDxUGA speakers — Calvin Rausch and Mattia Pistone

Hope Thornton
5 min readApr 27, 2023

Date: Spring 2023

Role: Veteran Presenter Advisor


My first brush into the TED world was in the fall of 2022. Many Ted Talks surely appear effortless and magical, but, that fall, I became immersed into the ins and outs of what really goes into each of these talks— and it’s not nearly as simple as one may think. Spring 2023, I was assigned two presenters whom I set out to work with for curation and preparation for the big stage on March 31, 2023. My journey as Veteran Presenter Advisor for Mattia Pistone and Calvin Rausch felt nothing short of inspiring. Here is a more detailed look into the process, as well as a few highlights:

The Challenge

Sure, I knew the TED textbook guidelines, but I learned so much more than that along the way:

  • These presenters have busy schedules and it may be difficult to coordinate meeting times.
  • My job of preparing presenters for the stage requires discipline, leadership, and crystal clear instructions as to what I need from them and when. Likewise, it is crucial to readily ask for feedback and encourage the presenters to have consistent and direct communication with us.
  • Lastly, there is no “right” way. Every presenter is different and may have a dissimilar set of needs.


Calvin Rausch -

Calvin is a fourth-year undergraduate student with a passion to serve. She has spent her time at UGA governing two campus-wide student-focused initiatives, Fresh Express and the Professional Clothing Closet. The talk that we composed focused on her personal experiences from serving domestically and abroad to advocate for informed altruism. Her talk championed the idea of asking, listening, and responding so that individuals who set out to serve may be responsible, sustainable, and intentional.

The first time I met Calvin, we didn’t know that we would be working together. We bonded over a shared love for vegetables, and, I must say, the conversation was genuinely so enjoyable. If she could be this passionate about carrots, I could only imagine how great she would be on stage talking about her idea.

Later on, in the Spring, we were paired to work with one another and I set up our first meeting. We wrote and wrote and wrote some more. We had many more meetings after that, and, every time, we made remarkable progress.

One time I fondly recall was when she was trying to write about a specific instance but was having trouble articulating it. Instead, I told her to close her eyes. I asked about what she could see, smell, hear on that occasion. How did she feel? What was she wearing? This moment, which translated into a wonderful area of her speech, proved monumental for myself as well. It made me incredibly more aware that Ted isn’t just about reciting a speech. This means so much more than simply just words- it’s the raw moments that cultivate a passion within each of these individuals, and in this instance, Calvin Rausch.

Each meeting, whether on video call or in our little blue room on the fourth floor of UGA’s journalism building, Calvin was eager to hear my suggestions. Between her curiosity to learn and grow, excellent stage charisma, and authenticity, it was a pleasure to be her advisor throughout this process.

Calvin and Hope- Pep talk behind the stage at dress rehearsal

Mattia Pistone -

Mattia is the director of the Magma Mia Petrology and Volcanology Laboratory and an assistant professor in the Department of Geology at the University of Georgia. He is a primary investigator of DIVE (Drilling the Ivrea-Verbano zonE), an international research initiative aimed at probing the boundary between Earth’s outer crust and the mantle for the first time. We arranged his talk with the purpose of sparking a curiosity within the audience to think differently about what actually lies below our feet, i.e. critical metals and resources. His talk explores the necessities of studying the earth’s foundations so that we may better understand how to evolve as an advancing society.

Finding times to meet with Mattia proved to be fairly challenging. On top of being a geologist and professor, he added “loving father” to the mix when his child was born during the period in which we were writing the talk!

This meant that every meeting was crucial in creating the best product possible. We met in person and on Zoom whenever we had the chance, and for as long as possible each time. Even still, his talk was in the writing phase for longer than intended. However, in reflection, I wouldn’t have taken back any of those hours spent. In fact, I learned a tremendous amount while working with Mattia about his area of study and had the best time doing so. He was a joy to work with and is an incredibly intelligent individual.

Mattia and Hope- Pep talk before stage performance


The hours leading up to the stage were nail-biters, yet I had so much faith in the presenters. Everyone had worked so hard for this moment. I made sure to remind Calvin and Mattia of why they started. At the end of the day, they were just sharing something they love and are passionate about.

When it came time for them to perform, I proudly sent them out to the stage and onto the red carpet while I stood in the wings and silently recited their talks to myself. Honestly, I was surprised at how much I had unintentionally memorized of each speech. We were in it together. In this moment, I was not a curator and they were not just people giving a Tedx Talk. I was their biggest supporter, holding my breath in excitement while they spoke. As for them, they were MY TEDxUGA presenters, carefully placing their transformative ideas like a ball of light into the hands of each viewer. I’d like to think the entire theatre was brilliantly glowing by the time they took a bow.

Calvin and Mattia, as well as the other seven presenters, performed extraordinarily on March 31, at TEDxUGA. Their passions were incredibly evident as they spoke with poise and purpose.

Calvin and Hope hugging after a wonderful performance

Little did I know that this event and these individuals would impact my life in such an astounding way.

More importantly, I found a family.

Tedx Fam