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How accountants can harness the power of personal presence

12 January 2021: Author and practice owner Della Hudson examines why developing an impressive personal presence is crucial for the modern accountant.

Like many ‘soft’ skills, the power of presence is something some seem to be born with and others need to work at. Some people walk into a room and immediately appear to own it. Others stand in a corner and wait to be approached. 

But why is having an impressive presence so important? And why are accountants often so bad at it?

Scott Johnston of ‘Find Your Presence’ helps accountants and other professionals to project themselves with impressive personal presence. He explains it is because your personal presence impacts on all your conversations, presentations and interpersonal communications.

As professionals we need:

  • The power to pitch
  • The power to negotiate
  • To avoid overconfidence


The way you pitch is influenced by your personal style, but everyone requires a balance in order to be compelling and impressive but not too pushy.

Pitching requires using our emotions, eloquence and voice in each of the three types of pitch you are making, explains Johnston, even though they all have different end goals. 

  • Sales presentations have a structure and the aim is to impress your prospect, not just present information. Your pitch is to draw out the benefits for them rather than giving a potted history of your firm since 1066. In other words, you need to “sell not tell”. The ideal outcome is more business now.
  • Sharing new ideas with your team is another form of pitching. This time the aim is to empathise rather than to impress. The outcome should be a stronger team that feels heard and understood.
  • Networking is less formal than a sales pitch and needs to focus on relationship building rather than selling. Whether it is a 40-second introduction or a longer conversation, the aim is to “be heard, remembered, and referred” in order to improve your future sales funnel.


Scott believes negotiating is about your mindset as well as your skillset – something he learned as a barrister before he became a speaker and trainer. A two-sided negotiation should mean we are open to others’ ideas and they to ours, but this may not be so easy if one party comes across as too pushy or too socially anxious.

Every human interaction has some form of negotiation, as we are always seeking to build relationships and rapport. These negotiations may consist of a quick chat or we may need to deploy all our negotiating skills. Deploying a “computer says no” attitude is not a negotiation and we need to consider the power of emotions whenever possible. We negotiate with other people’s emotions via words, body language, voice etc. There are very few win-lose scenarios in accountancy, so it should usually be possible to negotiate positively and aim for a win-win with clients, colleagues or commercial partners. 

When dealing with conflict the aim of the negotiation is to build bridges and move on.


Whilst many accountants are reserved, or even shy, others may need to tone it down. This can stem from overcompensating due to feelings of insecurity, so we need to be self-aware. While being forthright might get results in the short-term, a less-abrasive approach will produce better long-term results.

We need a mindset of awareness of ourselves and others. When speaking or writing, it is important to put ourselves into other people’s shoes. Often what we mean to say isn’t the message that is delivered. Tone it down and demonstrate your skill with confidence but without showing off.

  • Show up – if we’re unprepared or underconfident 
  • Show off – can put people off
  • Showtime – is when we work congenially with clients as an impressive professional. 

If you’re prone to overconfidence, it may be helpful to tone it down so it doesn’t offend or even hurt others. Aim to radiate a degree of warmth and approachability. You can be taken seriously without being overbearing. Have fun, let others speak up, and actively listen rather than just waiting to speak. 

As professionals we all need what Scott describes as Presencivity. Whether you feel as though you’re hiding and need to find your voice in order to begin presenting, or whether you have plateaued and need to develop an impressive personal presence that is both warm and professional so that everybody listens, this is a soft skill that we all need to develop.