Communication at the Center

A Qualitative Investigation Into the Value of Business Communication Training and Development within Entrepreneurial Acceleration Centers by UConn

Presented by Rory McGloin

  • Let’s start with a table of contents, just kidding that’s boring, let’s tell a story
  • I came to GCEC to find colleagues who are
  • 16 years of experience and got tenure in 2019
  • Got asked to do a lot of things I’m very passionate about
  • Helping people tell their stories more effectively
    • Articulate their values
    • Convey value propositions
  • Who is responsible for advancing the communication skills for people in your program?
    • Umm, we do 1 session once…
  • If we can’t communicate at the highest level
  • A relationship born over one cup of coffee
  • Summer Fellowship flagship accelerator program
    • Best of the best 10 teams over 10 weeks to compete for real money non-dilutive
    • Mentorship, training, support
    • Access to our support, energy
    • GOAL: provide consistent communication training to everyone who goes through it
  • How do we know if our programs are successful?
    • What defines success?
    • How do we know if we are doing it?
    • We need an understanding about if their self-efficacy about their competition or business increase as a result of the communication training
  • Pre/post quantitative surveys with data
    • Learned that if we primed people to ask about their communication needs/wants
    • They don’t actually know 
  • Why don’t we ask entrepreneurs who have gone through accelerator programs in the past who identify as entrepreneurs – what do you wish someone had told you five years ago?
    • What communication skills would have served you better today?
    • That’s what we are here to talk about…
  • That’s Rory’s story
  • Let’s bring us together by sharing a few norms
    • Accelerators act as a source of mentorship and a launchpad for startup ventures by supplying access to various critical resources:
      • Funding
      • Ecosystems
      • Resources
      • Mentorship/Professional Network
  • Compel the audience to come up and talk with you after
  • We set up the stage, lights, and camera – it’s about what you (the student) do with it
  • Rory’s #1 value = communication
  • If I can’t communicate effectively to them
  • If they can’t communicate effectively back to them
  • Communication is at the center of all these things
  • Need to analyze the audience, tell them what you need, and do it effectively
  • What makes CCEI special?
    • People
    • Self-awareness
    • Communication skills
  • Skills for video game categories
    • Engaging
    • Active listening
    • Empathy
    • Vulnerability
    • Authentic
    • Public speaking
    • Digital communication skills
  • Entrepreneurs should deliver a clear and compelling narrative…
  • Communication saves lives
  • Entrepreneurs face unique challenges due to the nature of the startup environment
    • Lack of brand identity, market experience
    • Perception of high risk, illegitimacy
    • Financial instability, unanticipated challenges
    • Talent acquisition and retention
    • Steep capital requirement
    • ALL at the same time
  • Poor CEO communication is detrimental to a new venture – it dies
  • However, entrepreneurs with communication competencies are better poised to acquire the critical resources and connections that enable them to exploit identified opportunities in the market and overcome the many barriers to entry that often result in the failure of early-stage companies
  • Rory does a lot of reading of the literature
  • Entrepreneurs who participated in just a 2-hour communication training session were 20% more profitable during the year following compared to a control group with no communication training
  • Literature needs
    • Presenting
    • Negotiating contracts
    • Organizational Management of their team
    • Networking
  • Finding – communication is not in the pedagogy of a lot of programs
  • How do we know what they need?
    • Ask
    • Purpose and Pedagogy
  • Purpose of the study
    • Expand the body of knowledge on the function of communication in the entrepreneurial journey
    • Identify which communication abilities startup accelerators should include in their educational programming
    • Offer insights regarding how to best deliver those lessons
    • 3 focus groups with 5 active entrepreneurs in each for 1 hour
  • Value of Communication for Entrepreneurs
    • Entrepreneurs (should) deliver a compelling narrative that clearly depicts their professional brands’ values, identity, and a vision of where their business is going in a manner that resonates with various stakeholder audiences in a compelling manner.
    • Storytelling
    • This is necessary for the entrepreneur and venture’s growth and ultimate survival
  • Research Question 1
    • How does communication (and its development) impact the individual’s overall entrepreneurial identity, and in turn their ability to advance their startup?
  • Research Question 2
    • What communication skills, practices, and training do entrepreneurs identify as critical for entrepreneurial success, and what methods would provide the best means for development?
    • Frenetic = experienced-based wisdom
      • Went through qualitative data to put it into code to find themes in 100+ pages of text
  • Communication was found to be critically present in 3 key aspects of the entrepreneur’s life
    • The Individual Self – identity
    • Social Interactions – managing the team
    • Communal Experiences – mentorship
      • Identity – it takes over everything a person does
      • Theme – Ongoing for several years about the full person and identity
      • What’s taking place in their teams as
  • Entrepreneurs said they need to develop 4 skills
    • Confidence – To build confidence in themselves
      • Transform and inspire others to get excited about their idea
      • You can change others’ demeanor 
      • Investors invest in the person because of the confidence and ability to communicate
    • Face management – intentionally portray yourself in the manner you want to be perceived
      • Everyone telling you that this is how you are coming across 
      • Ex. being a hyper-feminine product to a room full of all male investors
      • Dig into how the room is seeing you and using it as an advantage
      • Need to manage different identities and roles and flow between them
      • Your personal brand with different audiences
    • Empathetic listening – pay attention to what they are saying
      • We need to communicate in a way that says we understand their issues without belittling the work that they’re already doing
    • Flexibility – goes hand in hand with face management
      • Need to communicate with diverse stakeholders
      • Audience’s skills and abilities + what can I do to meet htem there
  • Supporting Entrepreneurs in Establishing Identities As Communications
    • Stress the importance of empathetic listening when communicating with internal and external audiences
    • Integrate team management and small group communication training in order to prepare entrepreneurs to attract talent and implement processes to stimulate productivity
    • Ensure that there is an appropriate amount of time dedicated to empowering entrepreneurs and providing opportunities for mentorship
    • We want you to leave as a compelling communicator and be part of your identity
    • Integrate team management and small group communication training in order to prepare entrepreneurs to attract talent and implement processes to simulate productivity
      • Recruit and retain talent
      • Manage people
      • Inspire and empower the team
      • What are we doing to help these teams function as better teams from a management perspective through the lens of communication?
    • Fresh GCEC Idea 
      • Listening skills for investors
      • It takes two to listen
      • IDEA: Invite investors to be efficient listeners
    • Supporting entrepreneurs – establishing identities as communicators
    • What workshops/activities do you have for quick-win communicator success?
    • Don’t coach to do these 3 things specifically
    • Instead, create an identity about being an empathetic listening
    • Will be doing a lot more ongoing research
    • Q&A
    • Victor from Yale
      • It’s not just training people to pitch better
      • It’s not just talking and practicing comms skills
      • What are you teaching your summer fellows in between?
      • The cadence of training for communications – what is that like?
      • Is it talking at them or is it more experiential?
        • 1) this paper doesn’t say what we do
        • What we should be doing is exposing everyone to a wider range of mentors
        • Applied and equipped with seminar-like learning upfront
        • Start with the entrepreneur to increase overall self-awareness
          • Strength/weakness
          • Relative self-efficacy of your business communication skills
        • Programming
          • Small group comms
          • Philosophy/psych of persuasion
          • Improv – yes and mindset
          • Immersed them in so many opportunities to engage a wide array of stakeholders, so if they are listening during the day, then they can use and apply those skills 
        • Cannot speak to relative success in how they are used, yet…
    • Spend 90 minutes on the first day helping them write 3 sentences to introduce themselves
  • Look up Randy Olson ABT (And, But, Therefore) Source: NY Times
    • Hi, my name is X. I’ve been doing _______. But I’ve been relatively unfulfilled because ____. Therefore, ____
    • What’s your BUT?
    • Why did you show up today?
    • Things are going really good in the world, BUT…
    • Equip them with tools to communicate
    • I could have been doing X, BUT
    • Podcast: Science of Story with Randy Olson

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