Using Subject Matter Experts to Help Develop Courses

It’s time to develop material for a training course. You have a firm grasp on the direction you want to go but know you could use some additional knowledge to really make your presentation pop.

This is where a subject matter expert (SME) comes into play.  Fellow trainers have discussed the benefits of collaborating with subject matter experts. Working together with SMEs can greatly benefit your training course content. But how should you approach the development process?

First, you’ll need to know who to reach out to. Begin by getting to know people in your organization or community who deal with the subject matter you want to become better acquainted with. Reach out to the potential SME directly and ask if he or she is interested and available in participating in the training design and/or delivery. Briefly explain your expectations and the specifics of the intended training course.

If the SME is interested in engaging during the course itself, keep in mind that he or she will have a limited amount of time to connect with and engage your course participants. Give the SME as much information as you can during the course design phase.

Make sure each SME is equipped with the following:

  • The class agenda, with appropriate time guidelines for his portion of the work
  • Objectives for each module of the course
  • Background information about the people who will attend the course—for example, their tenure with the organization, career/job experience, department hot topics
  • Information about any individual challenges the SME is likely to encounter in the classroom and tips for addressing them.

Tapping into Your SMEs’ expertise to enhance the training content

Although SMEs don’t deliver training every day, as you do, they are excellent resources when you’re creating a meaningful training event. Even when you’re not going to ask them to participate full-throttle to deliver the content, you will gain a great deal from partnering with them. From such a partnership, you can:

  • Get ideas for and feedback on the content of your handouts or other presentation materials.
  • Get input on developing useful facilitator notes.
  • Ensure that relevant activities and real-world examples are included in the training.


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