Table of Contents

Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) are Just Like PowerPoint

Surgeons. Judges. Attorneys. Researchers. They’re smart people. And their presentations can be… what’s the word… dry. So if you’re responsible for training results, how can you transform a Subject Matter Expert (SME) presentation into an engaging learning experience?

The fact is that your work life is going to be much more enjoyable if you embrace this simple fact: SMEs are experts, not trainers (unless they are SMEs in adult education and training). So, what are you to do when you depend on an SME to educate your learners? When it comes to effective training, you can delegate content creation and delivery to an SME, but never, ever abdicate the entire learning intervention.

Delegation, not Abdication
International development organizations, non-profits and major corporations alike depend on SMEs to bring their expertise to audiences of learners. An SME should be viewed as a training resource – much the same as PowerPoint is a training resource – but an SME is not the entire learning experience (just as PowerPoint alone does not make a complete learning experience).

My favorite training design model consists of the following elements:
1. Anchor (a brief activity to connect the learner to the topic at hand)
2. Content (the actual subject matter to be learned)
3. Application (activities allowing a learner to practice new knowledge, skills or behaviors)
4. Future Use (activities or resources a learner can take to transfer the learning to their job)

Effective training generally works when Step # 2 (content) is delegated to an SME. Too often, frustration sets in when an entire training program is abdicated to an SME, and all he or she produces is content.

Building Around the SME
SMEs are generally too busy to be bothered with mastering adult learning theory and strategies. Therefore, if you’re ultimately responsible for an engaging learning experience, then embrace the experience and expertise an SME can provide, and recognize that the material your SME provides is the content, and content is just one of four necessary steps.

If your SME is providing live training, then make sure that you’re able to provide an adequate briefing or anchor for the learners before the SME takes the stage. You can also immediately follow-up on the SME’s presentation with application activities and future use job aids based upon your SME’s content.

Sometimes an SME is contracted to produce training materials. As long as you haven’t abdicated the responsibility for the entire design of the training curriculum to an SME, you can take materials produced by an SME and build anchor, application and future use activities around an SME’s content-heavy materials.

It may be tempting to simply contract with an SME and walk away from the hard work that goes in to training program design. But engaging learning interventions require a proficiency in more than just the subject at hand; integration of adult learning and instructional design principles is essential.

Want an example of what this could look like? Come back on Friday for a fictionalized case example of building around SME materials.

Instructor-Led Training Resources

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

Training Delivery and Facilitation Competency Rubric

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.

Articles Similar to Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) are Just Like PowerPoint

facilitator competency rubric
ILT & VILT
Brian Washburn

Training Delivery and Facilitation Competency Rubric

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.

instructor becomes the pupil with kassy laborie and zovig garboushian
ILT & VILT
Brian Washburn

Turning the Tables: From Trainer to Student

As people who have designed and delivered effective training, Kassy Laborie and Zovig Garboushian know a thing or two about good learning experiences. So what nuggets have they gleaned from a 9-month course that they’re both attending, and that all of us should consider when designing our own programs? Today’s podcast answers that question.

John Crook on role play
ILT & VILT
Brian Washburn

Is this the world’s most effective role play?

When it comes to your training participants, two of the dirtiest, or perhaps scariest, words you can say during a session may be: role play. In today’s podcast, John Crook, Head of Learning at Intersol Global, offers some thoughts on how to make role plays more authentic and robust.

Subscribe to Get Updates from Endurance Learning

Brian Washburn, Author

Brian Washburn
CEO & Chief Ideas Guy

Enter your information below and we’ll send you the latest updates from our blog. Thanks for following!

training facilitator evaluation rubric - page 2

Download the Facilitator Evaluation Rubric

Enter your email below and we’ll send you the PDF of the rubric to help you assess the skills of someone delivering training.

Grow your L&D Career Today!

The Foundations of L&D course through the L&D Pro Academy provides the concepts and practical experience you need to grow your confidence and abilities as a well-rounded L&D professional.

Enter your email below and we’ll be in touch with an info sheet!

L&D Pro Academy

Find Your L&D Career Path

Explore the range of careers to understand what role might be a good fit for your L&D career.

Enter your email below and we’ll send you the PDF of the What’s Possible in L&D Worksheet.

What's possible in L&D

Let's Talk Training!

Brian Washburn

Brian Washburn
CEO & Chief Ideas Guy

Enter your information below and we’ll get back to you soon.

Download the Feedback Lesson Plan

Enter your email below and we’ll send you the lesson plan as a PDF.

feedback lesson plan
MS Word Job Aid Template

Download the Microsoft Word Job Aid Template

Enter your email below and we’ll send you the Word version of this template.

Download the Free Lesson Plan Template!

Enter your email below and we’ll send you a Word document that you can start using today!

free lesson plan template
training materials checklist

Download the Training Materials Checklist

Enter your email below and we’ll send you the PDF of the Training Materials Checklist.

Subscribe to Endurance Learning for updates

Get regular updates from the Endurance Learning team.