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Building the Training Capacity of SMEs

On a trip to India, I witnessed what it looks like to have sound instructional design and adult learning incorporated into the DNA of a group of subject matter experts.  The following slideshow offers a few snapshots of what this physically looked like.  The photos were taken during two and a half days of workshops featuring surgeons, health care executives, Board of Trustee members and middle management.  Almost every session was led by a subject matter expert.

SME Presentation Case Study

As you watch the slideshow, compare how many times you see someone standing behind a podium, clicking through slides vs. the number of photos of all 70 of the meeting attendees discussing, exploring, writing and actively participating in the learning activities.

[youtube=https://youtu.be/AByFQk3IKtM]

Moving SMEs toward training design that involves and engages their learners didn’t happen overnight.  It wasn’t something that happened during the two months of preparation that went into last week’s meeting.  It’s been the culmination of two years’ worth of discussions, coaching, feedback, training and buy-in by everyone involved.

Experiencing a Great Presentation

Before I work with SMEs in developing presentations, I try to demonstrate what a good, engaging, interactive presentation can be.  If SMEs don’t have an opportunity to attend a live presentation, I often send them a link to one of my favorite TED talks so that they can see that even a lecture, when well-rehearsed, can captivate an audience.  The bottom line is that in order for an SME to believe that interactive, engaging learning is more than just “touchy-feely fluff,” they need to see (or better yet, experience) what is possible through a well-designed presentation.

Train the Trainer

All of the SMEs I’ve worked with over the past two years have attended some type of train the trainer session.  I’ve found that the most fundamental piece to these sessions is the activity around well-written, action-oriented, learner-centered learning objectives.  Basically, SMEs are challenges to finish this sentence when writing learning objectives: “By the end of this session, participants will be able to…”

Once the SMEs used a verb like “explain” or “demonstrate” or “describe”, pure lecture went out the window.  They had to leave room in their presentations for role plays or case studies or other activities that allowed participants to explain something or demonstrate something or describe something.

Lesson Plans

To help SMEs organize their thoughts before they opened up PowerPoint and just started running wild with slides, I emphasized the need to use a lesson plan template.  This helped assign specific time to every concept they would cover and it was a way to be intentional about a variety of instructional strategies (instead of straight lecture).

Intensive One-on-One Work

After all the training and resources that were provided to SMEs, I found follow-up with one-on-one sessions and phone calls to be incredibly important.  It wasn’t enough for me to simply review their lesson plans and email feedback to them (I found that when I only sent written suggestions, they were rarely integrated into a final lesson plan).  Real-time conversation was crucial to understanding the SMEs’ ideas, brainstorming how to present the content and building upon one another’s thoughts.

Positive Peer Pressure

I’ve found that SMEs are driven and have a lot of pride.  When one SME took a risk and delivered an interactive and engaging presentation that was well-received and generated a lot of energy and excitement in the training room, every other SME who witnessed this wanted to design something even better and more creative.

A one-off train-the-trainer session will do little to transform an SME from lecturer to engaging presenter.  Like many other forms of change management, this really is a process.  What kinds of effort are you willing to put in to helping SMEs deliver more engaging presentations?

You can also check out the advice from Bob Pike as he looked at this scenario.

Instructor-Led Training Resources

These are some of our favorite resources to support everyone involved with instructor-led training.

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A rubric is a way to assess performance with a standard set of evaluation criteria. The next time you need to assess the performance of someone delivering training (even if that someone is you), you may find this rubric helpful.

The Role of Co-facilitators

Co-facilitators play an important role in a training workshop. The most obvious benefit is that when you co-facilitate, you get a break from leading the

18 Instructor-led Training Activities

Engaging, intentional, face-to-face and virtual instructor-led training activities can make the difference between a session that helps learners to apply new skills or knowledge and one that falls flat.

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