It's very common to ask SMEs to run training sessions for people on a whole range of specialist topics. But SHOULD we?
Yes and No.
In my opinion, it’s good to use SMEs for expert sessions, when delegates are already knowledgeable or experienced AND when they are interested in the subject.
But otherwise, probably not.
The problem with using experts for introductory or overview sessions is they know too much. They tend to overload delegates and go into far more detail than necessary. They often struggle to appreciate where delegates are and what they need to know.
For example, my husband was attending a mandatory safeguarding course where he was subject to detailed explanations about individual clauses in specific pieces of legislation. None of this was relevant. AT ALL. He needs to know why it’s important, what to look for, and what to do when he spots something of concern. That’s all.
So selecting relevant content from their vast knowledge is one challenge. The other is making it engaging. SMEs tend lack facilitation skills (not their fault!), so it turns into a lecture, which - if pitched wrong - is even less effective.
This also happened for my husband. 3 hours of being talked at.
I understand that it’s scary for SMEs to include interaction and activities (especially if they’ve never been trained in facilitation), as they lose control. It also eats into the time they have to teach delegates everything there is to know about the subject (I refer back to my first point). Far easier to just tell everyone.
But we know that this NEVER leads to effective learning.
It you just need to tick a box to say that people have been trained (even if no learning has taken place at all) then carry on.
If you actually want people to LEARN from subject matter experts, they then need help to design and deliver a proper training session rather than a lecture.
You could ask them to record their lectures, or get some elearning created, or even produce a manual, and ask those who need to be trained to work through it in chunks. They can then attend a live seminar which should just be about checking knowledge, asking questions and maybe working through a case study or two.
If you have the option, use a facilitator to run the session and have the SME support it - to answer questions, give specific examples or maybe debrief a case study. That way, delegates get the best of both worlds... An engaging, interactive session that was pitched right with expert advice on specific issues.
Or develop their skills.
SMEs don’t need to be EXPERT facilitators. But If they are responsible for training people, they do need to know how to engage people in learning. That’s something the Training designer’s Club can help with.
Our short courses – Design Training in Six Simple Steps and MASTER your Training Design are both a perfect starting point for SMEs: One takes them through how to select content and structure it appropriately, and the other shares how to bring it to life.
So if you know any SMEs who need to deliver mandatory training and have it make a difference rather than just tick a box, get them to take a look.