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PitchLyst exclusive: What entrepreneurs need to know about joy

Margie Manning

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Photo by Campaign Creators on Unsplash

When you smile and how much you smile can impact the success of your quest for funding or for customers.

That’s the conclusion of a two-year study by researchers at University of South Florida and Georgia Tech, who focused on displays of emotion by entrepreneurs when they were making pitches.

Audiences are receptive to facial expressions that indicate joy, the study found. But showing too much of that joy, or showing it at the wrong time, can be a turn-off.

“Managing emotional displays is critical for entrepreneurs to successfully communicate and market their venture ideas,” said Lin Jiang, visiting professor in entrepreneurship at USF Muma College of Business.

Findings by Jiang and her co-authors — Dezhi Yin, assistant professor at Muma’s Information Systems Decision Sciences department, and Dong Liu, associate professor in organizational behavior at Georgia Tech’s Scheller College of Business —  are included in a paper accepted for publication in an upcoming issue of the Academy of Management Journal.

A summary of the paper, titled “Can Joy Buy You Money? The Impact of the Strength, Duration and Phases of an Entrepreneur’s Peak Displayed Joy on Funding Performance,” has been posted online by USF Muma.

Entrepreneurs are often told to be enthusiastic and happy when they make their pitch, but there’s little guidance on managing the intensity and timing of emotional displays, said Jiang, the lead author.

The researchers analyzed data from more than eight million frames in 1,460 Kickstarter pitch videos, using a software called FaceReader that uses artificial intelligence and big data analytics.

“This software can recognize subtle facial expressions and make reliable assessments of displayed emotions by taking advantage of facial expression analysis techniques, artificial intelligence and big data analytics,” Jiang said.

Here are some takeaways from their findings:

  • The higher the “joy level” during the most excited or happiest moment of the pitch, the better the outcome. “When the audiences are making a decision after watching a pitch, they tend to remember the peak emotional moments more than other moments. And an entrepreneur’s joyful display tends to make the audiences feel more pleasant and more confident about the entrepreneur,” Jiang said.
  • Prolonged peaks of joy can negatively impact the outcome, as audiences start to draw negative inferences.
  • Displays of joy are most effective during the beginning and ending phases of a pitch. “That’s when they should strive to reach a higher peak displayed joy level in order to more effectively attract the audience,” Jiang said.
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