A sluggish economy means everyone must do more with fewer resources. Many organizations have cut conference budgets and opt for more in-house presentations by in-house presenters. Corporate education departments are enlisting the help of internal subject-matter experts (SMEs). With a little planning and support, the experience can be a win-win-win for the presenter, participants and learning organization.
If the issue is delivery of relevant knowledge, not attitude or interest, process or policies, codependency or co-workers, who is the best person to transfer this needed knowledge to fellow workers? Often, there is someone in the learning organization who has the requisite knowledge, understands the topic and can pull together an exciting learning experience that can measure a positive impact at Level 4 on the Kirkpatrick scale.
If no one on staff has enough knowledge of the topic to educate others, you need to find SMEs elsewhere within the organization and provide the necessary pedagogical support to get what’s in their heads out and into a language that participants can understand.
The first step is to make sure the SMEs have the desire, time, commitment and freedom to prepare for and present the session. If they don’t have an interest in presenting, no amount of support from the learning organization will make the learning a positive experience. Once the experts have agreed to share their knowledge, you will act as a guide and coach.
All training programs need learning objectives, but it is especially important to develop clear, measurable objectives when designing a class to be taught by SMEs. Remember, these people have a great deal of information and experience, and they know the subject very well.
SMEs will need parameters and direction. Keep in mind that the information is common to the expert. SMEs might assume prior knowledge or want to skip the basic, “boring” stuff and jump right into more exciting information. Clear objectives will keep you both on track and focused on what the learning outcome needs to be.
Share the audience demographics with SMEs because it will help them have a sense of the audience members: what they already know, what they expect and, perhaps, how they are used to learning. The objectives should be written with the audience clearly in mind. Give as much information as you can. It will serve to inform, prepare and relax the presenter.
Consider what format will be most successful for the presentation and include the presenter in the consideration. Will the information be learned best through a lecture, a role-play or a combination? What presentation materials are needed? Will a multimedia presentation facilitate the learning? How about flip charts, handouts, seating arrangements? All these aspects are automatic for enterprise education professionals who present on a regular basis, but they might not be second nature to SMEs. As the format is decided, take the presenter’s comfort level into consideration, including his or her proficiency and preferences about the use of technology such as multimedia. If there is a learning curve for SMEs, share techniques on delivering effective presentations.
In addition to ensuring SMEs have everything they need to do the presentation, also make sure you take the time to communicate deadlines and guidelines before the presentation commences.
Once things get rolling, it’s important to maintain a continual and collaborative communication stream. Stay in touch. Ask SMEs where they’re at in the project and whether there are any problems. Is the subject matter, now that they’ve delved into it, over their heads? Asking the tough questions first can allay problems later.
You also should make sure the subject-matter experts are clearly aware of what the project goals are — SMEs should have a clear line of sight from beginning to end.
After the presentation, remember to give SMEs feedback and constructive criticism, if necessary. Above all, you want to establish a healthy relationship so you can continue to use SMEs to deliver critical learning to your workforce.
Wanda Ritter is the education manager at Doylestown Hospital in Pennsylvania. She can be reached at email@example.com.