UofL business researchers show passion and public speaking skills often confused

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    LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Entrepreneurs are, by their nature, self-starters who are passionate about their work. But how often are good public speaking skills confused with passion, leading to bad investment decisions?

    That’s the question a group of University of Louisville College of Business researchers explored in a study published online recently in the journal “IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication.”

    The researchers surveyed 40 student entrepreneurs about their passion for entrepreneurship. Then they recorded the entrepreneurs’ business pitches and showed the videos to investors. They asked the investors to rank and rate their perceptions of each of the entrepreneurs’ passion, and to discuss their reasoning. The researchers then conducted statistical analyses to assess whether the investors’ perceptions of passion aligned with the entrepreneurs’ reports of personal passion.

    What they found was that investors did not do a very good job differentiating between the most and least passionate entrepreneurs. But that problem could be attributed to the entrepreneurs themselves. When entrepreneurs had weak presentation skills, it caused investors to underestimate passion. But when they had strong skills, it led investors to overestimate passion. For investors, that means “buyer beware,” as a good presenter may not have the follow-through it takes to keep a business going after a setback.

     “ … Investors may miss investment opportunities with passionate entrepreneurs who are simply struggling with presentation skills, or make less than optimal investments in entrepreneurs who are projecting a passionate image but do not have the ‘fire in the belly’ to back up their message,” the researchers concluded.

    The researchers were Kristen Lucas, associate professor in the College of Business; Sharon A. Kerrick, formerly of UofL and now interim business school dean at Bellarmine University; Jenna Haugen, assistant professor in the College of Business and Cole J. Crider, a PhD student in the College of Business.

    The study will be published in the journal in December but is available online at http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/7604127/.

    For further information, contact Lucas at (502) 852-4786 or kristen.lucas@louisville.edu.

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    Janet Cappiello covers student success for the Office of Communications and Marketing. She has more than 30 years’ experience in journalism, including working for The Associated Press and magazines such as Vegetarian Times and Sustainability: The Journal of Record. She has been at UofL since 2014.