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Guila Muir

Developing trainers, presenters and facilitators to make a difference

Embracing “Figleaf”

Oh, if only I could advocate Figleaf, since it’s the favorite position of many of my clients. In my fantasy scenario, after giving Figleaf the thumbs up, I could also wholeheartedly endorse

  • holding hands in pockets.
  • locking hands in an “I’m handcuffed” position behind the body.
  • fiddling with hair and clothing.

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 is the posture that occurs when you place one or more hands in front of your midsection or abdomen. It takes its name from Adam and Eve’s typical stance in the Garden of Eden.

Why Does Figleaf Occur?

Our brains are hardwired to protect us. When we feel exposed (as many do when giving a presentation) 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, in presenting, there are only a few real ‘no-no’s” for your hands. But there are numerous positive options. All of the following will make you look more credible, dynamic, and confident.

  • Bend your elbows slightly and hold them slightly away from your body. Allow your hands to relax and face each other. Move your wrists slightly as you talk. OR
  • Simply let your arms relax at your sides. OR
  • Practice gesturing as you say “on the one hand…and then on the other….” See what happens.
  • Move your hands from the shoulders instead of from the elbows.

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.

Learn about Guila Muir’s Presentation Skills Workshops.

Guila Muir is a premiere trainer of trainers, facilitators, and presenters. Since 1994, she has helped thousands of professionals improve their training, facilitation, and presentation skills. Find out how she can help transform you from a boring expert to a great presenter: www.guilamuir.com


2 Responses to “Embracing “Figleaf””

  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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