Why is it that civil engineers who think nothing of clambering over a half constructed bridge or climbing down a tunnel get stage fright at the idea of giving a presentation to a few colleagues?
No one knows the answer, but the fear of public speaking is common in UK businesses of all kinds.
'Many people are afraid of giving presentations and making a fool of themselves. Forgetting their words or being asked a question they can't answer are usually their biggest fears, ' says Cristina Stuart, managing director of communications training company Speak First.
'I see people in their forties who say they have been putting off giving a presentation for their whole career. I get grown men shaking. It's a very, very common fear.'
But Stuart stresses that presentations are more important than ever across all industries, and civil engineering is no exception. If you want to sell an idea, a business proposal or yourself, there is no better way of getting your point across than standing up and using your voice. 'Not only is business more competitive now, it's more informal, ' says Stuart.
Andrew Bradbury, author of Successful presentations skills (Kogan Page/Sunday Times, £7.99), agrees that engineers do need to hone their presentation skills. 'Presentations aren't just a way of getting information across, they bring in the human element, ' he points out. 'Body language and the way you speak make the biggest impact: often the facts that you are explaining are secondary.'
Bradbury suggests thorough preparation as the best way both to calm your nerves and ensure you make the best possible impression.
Visual aids are useful, but if there is any danger of your audience not being able understand whathas been shown, make sure you can give them the information in another form, says Bradbury.
'Engineers are likely to be dealing with a lot of technical information, which some people may find hard to take in, ' he warns. 'So if you have to use detailed visual material, make sure you have handouts which people can take away with them as well.'
Paul Jowers, head of corporate affairs with WS Atkins, says that tuning in to your audience is vital.