Taking part in a panel or round table discussion is often seen as a safer option than the more stressful prospect of giving a lecture. Indeed, the idea of responding to questions as part of a group is much less nerve-wracking than having to be the sole focus of attention during a speech.

However, being part of a panel highly increases the chances that your message will be diluted in an unstructured flow of arguments between participants in a discussion that is very dependent upon the level of moderation.

The best way to ensure that your message is heard and understood is to speak first. Answering the moderator’s first question will increase your chances to set the tone and frame the discussion. It will also eliminate the risk that others will make the same, or a similar point to yours before you have had the chance. This will boost your confidence for the remainder of the discussion and will also ensure you make a powerful first impression on the crowd, whose attention is often at its highest at the start.

So next time you prepare for a panel, ask the moderator in advance about the first question they intend to ask and be ready to jump in while others are still formulating their responses.

 We are the sports practice of global advisory firm Burson Cohn & Wolfe. We provide strategy and communication advice for sports clients around the world. For more information: www.bcw-sport.com