I love my mechanic! If you own a vehicle, then you are aware how critical it is to have a stellar mechanic tagged as a favorite on your phone. While I'm skilled at a few things, I'll openly admit that working under the hood of a vehicle is not one of my strengths. I've developed a relationship with my mechanic where I have the utmost trust in what he is good at which allows me to focus on what I do best. So here is the challenge. When he calls me with his diagnosis, after about 45 seconds I begin to glaze over with fluttering eyelids and a sense that I've just talked with Charlie Brown's teacher. In the space of two minutes, he's given me much more information than I needed. In communication, knowing a lot can work both for you and against you.
At evoke, we regularly work with Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) when helping our clients build a workshop. Many times our clients use SMEs to deliver content to their learners. We also see SMEs giving virtual or in-person content presentations that they have created. They may even be asked to teach a learning module. If you find an SME with excellent delivery skills, what a BONUS! However, in our experience, this is a rare find. They are experts at what they do in their day-to-day jobs but not expected to be competent at facilitation or presentation.
We've all been to presentations where the presenter had content of great value to us. However, their poor delivery made it extremely difficult to take in that value. When our SME's are sharing their knowledge, we don't want their audiences to feel like they were listening to my mechanic ... brilliant, but I'm not sure what they just said.
Don't leave your SME's delivery to chance. The risk is too great. There is a learning risk for the participants and reputational risk for the SME. Doing is one thing. Articulating what you do and helping others learn is a different skill set. SMEs are a critical resource to learning and development in any company. It is the learning/training leader's job to coach the SME in the delivery skills necessary to be successful.
Last quarter, one of our Fortune 50 clients asked a number of global managers and leaders to deliver a virtual performance management curriculum. This was a competent group that either had never delivered virtual training or had not delivered virtual training recently. To their credit they asked my company, evoke, to work with these SMEs on both the content of the program and their delivery skills. We were able to help the SMEs with what they were going to say and had them practice how they were going to say it. Our two 2-hour virtual training sessions left them confident and ready.
Here are two ideas on how to support your SME:
1. The SME is delivering their own presentation: Provide the SME with the appropriate virtual or in-person presentation skills coaching. The key is to provide this SME essential coaching in a timeframe that fits easily into their busy schedule. The program should cover both how they structure the content and tips to improve their presentation skills.
2. SME is delivering a designed workshop:
• Provide the SME with coaching on the specific content and design of the program in addition to the appropriate virtual or in-person presentation skills and/or...
• Pair the SME with an experienced instructor for a co-teach. This will enable the SME to do what they do best while sharing the engagement responsibility over to the instructor.
Remember, don’t take your SME asset for granted. Help them articulate their message so their value is clear.