Don’t overdo it: Overenthusiastic pitches turn off investors, study warns

TAMPA, Fla. — There’s something to be said for subtlety when it comes to pitching new investors. Now, scientists at the University of South Florida have found that pitching with too much passion or enthusiasm may end up turning off many potential business partners.

More specifically, the study finds energetic body movements and animated facial expressions often make investors suspicious of an entrepreneur’s true intentions. How does the saying go? Laying it on just a little too thick. When an entrepreneur uses over the top gestures and voices, many can’t help but feel like they’re “being worked.”

“For entrepreneurs pitching to raise funding, more enthusiasm is not necessarily better,” says lead study author Lin Jiang, an assistant professor of entrepreneurship at the USF Muma College of Business, in a university release.

Entrepreneurs, of course, routinely pitch new business ideas to investors to attract funding. The research team at USF set out to determine if great enthusiasm during a funding pitch is always a good idea.

It’s all in the approach

While the right amount of enthusiasm can absolutely encourage investors to get on board, study authors also observed a clear downside. Enthusiastic expressions can backfire and cause investors to further scrutinize a project. This effect increases potential partners see the entrepreneur as less competent.

These findings are based on a survey of 1,811 people evaluating 182 crowdfunding projects. An additional randomized experiment featured 274 people. During the experiment, an actor presented an identical pitch in two ways: once with very high enthusiasm and once without. Then, participants had to reveal which pitch they preferred.

“Our findings suggest that displaying enthusiasm may not always be effective for entrepreneurs to raise funding, especially for those who lack the needed expertise for the venture,” Prof. Jiang concludes. “There are both positive and negative pathways for displaying your enthusiasm through energetic body gestures, varied vocal pitches, or animated facial expressions.”

The findings appear the journal Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice.

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