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What kind of training facilitator are you?

As someone who has been in the world of L&D for several decades, I used to think it was imperative for SMEs to also master the art of facilitation. This knowledge/ability matrix released me from that folly.

In June, my book What’s Your Formula: Combine Learning Elements for Impactful Training was released. While the majority of the pages revolve around a periodic table of learning elements, there is also a chapter about an “X-factor” that can have as much impact on any training program as the elements used to design the program. That X-factor is the presenter.

In July, the Association for Talent Development published an article I wrote to expand on this idea of an X-factor in their monthly publication, TD magazine. The article was entitled Presenter, Know Thyself. This concept revolves around a presenter knowledge/ability learning matrix. The article goes into more depth about how to navigate this matrix to become a more effective presenter.

Why is it important to know where you might fall on this matrix? I’ve found this matrix to be very helpful in reassuring me, as a presenter, that I don’t need to be able to do everything perfectly.

Yes, it’s important to be prepared prior to a session, to know your material and how you’ll present that material and any accompanying activities as fluently as possible. When you’re looking at this matrix, you certainly want to spend as little time as possible in Quadrant A (low content knowledge, low application of adult learning principles). That’s just an uncomfortable place to be, and you’d be well-served to be curious about your content so that you can increase your subject matter expertise. You’d also be well-served learning a little more about how to engage people while you present.

You don’t, however, need to know everything about every topic and be a master instructional designer and expert facilitator, too. Perhaps the easiest way to navigate this matrix is if you’re in a position to co-present. When you mix one subject matter expert with one person who is skilled in facilitating activities and conversations, you’ll find that the presentation itself will land in Quadrant C, where there is both a high level of subject matter expertise available to the participants as well as someone who can engage with them in exploring the information at a deeper level.

As someone who has been in the world of training for several decades, I used to want to pull subject matter experts from Quadrant B to Quadrant C. Otherwise, how would they effectively get their knowledge across to their participants?

The reality is that SMEs are paid to do very specific things, that’s how they make money for your organization. They are generally not, however, paid to be expert training designers or presenters.

When we’re designing presentations, it’s so tempting to design for our own skillset. If you’re designing a presentation for someone else to deliver, you’ll want to make sure that you know where they fall on this quadrant. If you’re designing for an SME who isn’t comfortable engaging a group in dialogue or delivering activity instructions, then you’ll want to find other devices (storytelling, polling, etc) for the presenter to use that can engage the audience without pushing the presenter so far out of their comfort zone that they can’t effectively deliver their content.

Another thing to keep in mind with this quadrant is that it’s situational. If you’re reading this post, chances are you’re already versed in principles of adult learning and how to engage your learners. If you’re asked to present on a topic in which you have deep knowledge (presentation skills, for example), you may find yourself in Quadrant C. Of course, that can all change tomorrow when you’re asked to present on a topic in which you have little expertise, finding yourself in Quadrant D.

There are a lot of ideas to play with as you look over this matrix and identify where you fall on any given day, where your colleagues who are asked to present may fall, and where the people for whom you develop training may fall. In the TD magazine article, I also shared a quick assessment to help you locate where you may fall:

Matrix Assessment 1
Matrix Assessment 2

I had my own ideas in mind when I created this matrix, but if you’re planning to use it, I’d love to know how you might find it helpful. Drop me a line on LinkedIn or post something in the comment section below!


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