How to Make Partnering With SMEs Really Pay Off

By Amanda Smith

SMEs can bring credibility and relevance to live training. They enrich learning programs with their insight and depth of experience. But content expertise alone isn't enough to deliver effective training. Dale Ludwig and Greg Owen-Boger, authors of Effective SMEs: A Trainer’s Guide for Helping Subject Matter Experts Facilitate Learning, know that with the right approach, though, you can bring SMEs into the training room successfully—in a way that makes learners, instructors, and managers feel like their goals are being met.

I recently spoke with Dale and Greg about how instructional designers can work with SMEs to make training delivery by the SME as easy as possible. It’s all about getting SMEs comfortable with their role, they say. “SMEs need to understand that they are their to help facilitate learning.”

It’s also important to help SMEs understand the learning process. For instance, SMEs need to understand why a training program is designed a certain way—why some content needs to be covered in a specific order or format and why some activities may work better than others. It’s important to remember that SMEs are authorities on content, not talent development.

Bottom line: SMEs want to do well in the classroom, but it's often unfamiliar terrain. Listen to my Q&A podcast with Dale and Greg for some first-rate advice, gleaned from decades helping presenters, instructional designers, and SMEs become better communicators.