A key challenge for entrepreneurs is to convince investors of their business ideas in a pitch. Although scholars have started to explore how entrepreneurs convey their passion and preparedness in a pitch, they have overlooked the possible variation that exists in the verbal and nonverbal expressions of entrepreneurs. We build on research in cognitive science and entrepreneurship to examine the nature and influence of specific forms of speech and gesturing used by entrepreneurs when pitching. In an initial qualitative field study we identify distinct pitching strategies entrepreneurs use, involving different combinations of verbal tactics (using literal and figurative language to frame a venture) and gesture (using different types of hand gestures to emphasize parts of their pitch and convey product and venture ideas). In an experimental study with samples of investors and students, we examine the impact of these strategies on the propensity to invest. We found that although variation in the type of language entrepreneurs used had limited effects, using gestures to depict and symbolize business ideas had strong positive effects. Our findings indicate that the skilled use of gestures by entrepreneurs helps potential investors imagine aspects of a new venture for themselves, enhancing perception of its investment potential.
Jean Clarke, Joep Paul Cornelissen and Mark Healey. 2018. Actions Speak Louder than Words: How Figurative Language and Gesturing in Entrepreneurial Pitches Influences Investment Judgments, Academy of Management Journal, first published 3 July 2018: https://journals.aom.org/doi/10.5465/amj.2016.1008