The More Enthusiastic, the Better? Lessons from Crowdfunding

Drawing of a businessman with arms raised against backdrop of world map
Passion isn’t automatically persuasive. (Image: mohamed Hassan /Pixabay)

In this post, Lin Jiang, an assistant professor of entrepreneurship at the Muma College of Business, University of South Florida, discusses the backstory for the paper “The More Enthusiastic, the Better? Unveiling a Negative Pathway From Entrepreneurs’ Displayed Enthusiasm to Funders’ Funding Intentions,” which the journal Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice recently published. Jiang discusses the crowdfunding origins of the paper she wrote with Dezhi Yin, an associate professor at Muma’s School of Information Systems and Management; Dong Liu, the Thomas R. Williams Chair in Management and a Professor of Organizational Behavior at the Scheller College of Business, Georgia Institute of Technology; and Richard Johnson, a professor of management at the Robert J. Trulaske, Sr. College of Business at the University of Missouri. Jiang’s discussion appears after the paper’s abstract.

Displaying enthusiasm (an emotional manifestation of passion) is a common practice for entrepreneurs to attract crowdfunding. However, we propose that funders may attribute an entrepreneur’s displayed enthusiasm to impression management motives, which can in turn reduce their funding intentions. Moreover, this negative pathway is more likely to occur when the entrepreneur is perceived to have lower domain expertise. We found consistent support for these hypotheses from a survey and an experiment. Our findings suggest that displaying enthusiasm may not always be effective for entrepreneurs because there are both positive and negative pathways underlying the influence of displayed enthusiasm on funders.

What motivated you to pursue this research?
We started this research at a time soon after we heard about That is a platform that made it possible for people to observe a lot of entrepreneurs’ persuasive pitches very easily. And there were new pitches every day. Out of curiosity, we watched many of these pitches. Among several things that caught our attention was the enthusiastic presentation by some entrepreneurs. For some of these enthusiastic pitches, we just felt like the entrepreneurs were putting up a play and distracted our genuine interest in the products. However, the literature and practical advice we often heard about was that the more enthusiastic or passionate the better. So, we decided to look into this a little more.

Headshots of Lin Jiang, Dezhi Yin, Richard Johnson, and Dong Liu.
Clockwise from top left: Lin Jiang, Dezhi Yin, Richard Johnson, and Dong Liu.

In what ways is your research innovative, and how do you think it will impact the field?
The most innovative aspect of this research perhaps is that it shifts the consensus regarding the role of showing passion or enthusiasm in entrepreneurial pitches. The consensus is that an enthusiastic pitch benefits entrepreneurs in persuading potential funders (e.g., investors). Prior research has mostly focused on the benefits of displaying enthusiasm. In contrast, this research sheds light on the downside of displaying enthusiasm. We find it is possible that funders perceive an entrepreneur’s enthusiastic displays (e.g., energetic body language, animated facial expressions) as driven merely by the motives of impression management, and this perception can in turn lower the funders’ intentions to provide funding. We also find that this negative pathway takes place especially when the entrepreneurs have lower domain expertise and thus have to rely more on other ways (e.g., showing enthusiasm) to impress investors. The findings of this research will extend the field to examine both the benefits and costs of displaying emotions that are commonly viewed as desirable (e.g., joy, enthusiasm, etc.).

What advice would you give to new scholars and incoming researchers in this particular field of study?
Our advice for new scholars entering the field of studying entrepreneurs’ persuasive communication is to study it with a dialectical-thinking approach. There are many other persuasive communication tactics than displaying passion or enthusiasm, such as using assertive techniques (Parhankangas & Ehrlich, 2014). But it is reasonable to expect that each persuasive communication approach has its benefits and costs. If, for a particular persuasive communication approach, the literature has mostly focused on either the benefit or the cost side, you have the opportunity to explore the other side or both sides. For both scholars and practitioners, we benefit by adopting a dialectical-thinking approach. A more balanced view considering both the benefits and costs allows us to understand a phenomenon more thoroughly. 

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Display of enthusiasm may so be due to the cultural origin of the entrepreneur

Lin Jiang

Hi, John, yes! What makes some entrepreneurs display enthusiasm and others don’t is another interesting question.

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