Understanding the Entrepreneur by Focusing on Language and Body Language

Create knowledge. Make an impact.

Men and women in conversation

Research overview

In the wake of the global economic crisis, entrepreneurship is increasingly seen as a means to enhance economic performance in the context of scarce public funds. Recent discussions have centered on the idea that governments should develop policy which is instrumental in developing entrepreneurial activity.

One critical way governments can support entrepreneurs is by helping them to be more successful in acquiring the financial resources needed to initiate or expand their venture. Entrepreneurs are likely to face considerable challenges in engaging resource providers in their ideas, given the lack of tangible predictors of competence or evidence that the venture will eventually be successful.

This project will employ the Cornelissen and Clarke’s (2010) new theoretical perspective which offers a more integrative understanding of the entrepreneur within their social context by focusing on the language and body language entrepreneurs use to persuade investors to support their new venture. If the communication skills of entrepreneurs are viewed as central to the achievement of funding, it follows that these behaviours can be identified, assessed and developed in others. Working with one end-users, including organisations who train entrepreneur in pitching, 30 technology entrepreneurs will be identified to take part in the project.

Over the period of the project three studies will be conducted:

Study 1 (A linguistic analysis of videotaped pitches to investors) will develop insights into the form, frequency and function of language and body language used by entrepreneurs.
Study 2 (An in-depth visual ethnographic study).
Study 3 (An experimental study) will provide information on whether these tactics have an impact on investor's decisions.

Research impact

The potential impact of this research is three-fold:

Firstly this research has the potential to offer considerable strategic benefit to policy makers and professional associations involved in the training of entrepreneurs. Among other impact activities, state-of-the-art training materials will be developed and used within Leeds Enterprise Centre, Connect Networks and posted online at Start-Up Britain.

Secondly, this project is likely to have significant impact on the field of entrepreneurship, as Cornelissen and Clarke’s (2010) new theoretical approach has the potential to overcome the problems with and reconcile the two existing major perspectives in entrepreneurship.

Thirdly, the project uses innovative approaches to data collection (visual ethnography) and analysis (techniques adapted from linguistics). This project will mainstream these methods within the management community and will build capacity through training new researchers in these techniques.