Pictured left to right: Kristen Lucas, PhD, Cole Crider, and Jenna Haugen, PhD.

When investors are deciding which projects to support, they often consider whether the entrepreneur pitching the idea has skin in the game. They attempt to measure the amount of passion that the entrepreneur has for the project as an indicator they will be successful in the venture.

Quality written and verbal communication is vital for entrepreneurial success. Consider the time spent writing a business plan, giving an elevator pitch to get a foot in the door, or selling an idea to an angel investor. Each of these activities requires sharp communication skills to propel an idea forward.

U of L College of Business researchers Kristen Lucas, Sharon Kerrick, Jenna Haugen, and Cole Crider explored the relationship between internal passion and an investor’s ability to identify those most passionate pitchers. What they found was misalignment between entrepreneurs’ personal passion and investors’ perceived passion. Their findings are outlined in Communicating Entrepreneurial Passion: Personal Passion vs. Perceived Passion in Venture Pitches.

In order to convey passion, entrepreneurs should develop specific presentation skills and rhetorical strategies. First, the pitchers should demonstrate confident body language by standing tall and using facial expressions to convey confidence. Second, vocal variety is key to success with well-timed pauses. One must express enthusiasm for the project while taking time as to not appear too rehearsed. This leads to more involvement with the investor, a strategy that leads to higher perceived passion. Building a connection through eye contact, gestures, and a conversational tone convinces the investor that the entrepreneur is passionate. And finally, the entrepreneur must say they are passionate. Personal narratives, positive wording, and confident language (think when, not if) led to more perceived passion.

At the same time, investors should be wary of attending too closely to presentation skills when assessing passion. The researchers found that some skilled pitchers were able to misrepresent their level of passion for the project. It’s important for the investor to beware.

To read more about this research, click here.
Published in: IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication Volume: 59Issue: 4, Dec. 2016 )


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