Guila Muir

Developing trainers, presenters and facilitators to make a difference

Embracing “Figleaf” for Presentations

Oh, if only I could advocate Figleaf, since it’s the go-to position of many presenters. After giving Figleaf a thumbs-up in this fantasy scenario, I could also wholeheartedly endorse

  • holding hands in pockets.
  • locking hands in an “I’m handcuffed” position behind the body.
  • wiggling or clenching fingers.

I can only imagine how relieved my clients would be if I could promote these popular hand behaviors.

Unfortunately, it’s not going to happen. If we are serious about presenting effectively, we can’t afford any of these. Let’s take a look at the worst offender, and then review our options.

What is Figleaf?

Figleaf occurs when you place one or more hands in front of your midsection or abdomen. It takes its name from Adam and Eve’s situation in the Garden of Eden. Using “Figleaf”, even while sitting, closes you in and hunches you inward. It can even lower others’ perception of your credibility.

Why Does Figleaf Occur?

Our brains are hardwired to protect us. When we feel exposed (as many feel when presenting) we react by covering up. As Malcolm Kushner says in Presentations for Dummies, “it’s like you’ve just discovered your nakedness (or lack of anything intelligent to say) and want to hide it from your audience.”

What Are Options to Figleaf?

The good news is that, great alternatives exist. All of the following will make you look more credible, both online and in three dimensions:

  • Bend your elbows slightly and align your middle finger with your shoulders. Allow your hands to relax and face each other. Move your wrists slightly as you talk. OR
  • Move your hands from the shoulders instead of from the elbows. OR
  • Making sure they show up on camera, demonstrate with your hands:  “On the ONE hand”, or “our FIRST priority should be…”

To Avoid Figleaf

All you need is willingness…willingness to try something new, even if it makes you feel exposed at first. You will see an immediate improvement in your confidence and competence as a speaker.

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2 Responses to “Embracing “Figleaf” for Presentations”

  1. Todd Jaynes says:

    I love this, Guila! You did a workshop with my team a little over a year ago (I work in the Big Blue Insurance world); since then I’ve focused on avoiding the Figleaf and the Parade Rest poses. It’s not easy, but IT WORKS!

    The associates in the classes and workshops I train are much more engaged, and I don’t feel so awkward!

    Now if we can just get rid of our badges/lanyards so my teammates will stop fiddling with them…

  2. Guila says:

    Hi Todd. THANKS for your comment. It made me laugh! I’m glad you are finding that avoiding those two positions enhances your credibility. YEY!

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