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Steve Robson

Marine Industry

Learning and Development Consultant

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Subject matter experts


Whats the number 1 thing subject matter experts don't "get" about training?

In my experience, it's the ability to ask rather than tell...questioning skills are almost impossible for some SME's to grasp!

"Surely if you tell them and you have covered it that's enough"? I hear them say time after time...

This is my strategy for dealing with this...whats yours

4 Responses

  1. Nail and hammer

    Hi Steve.

    To be honest, I think you've hit the nail on the head!

    Our entire business has been built on the fact that SMEs and many trainers historically, have delivered 'training' in a trainer-centred way i.e. lecture. The balance between questioning and informing has been out of kilter and questioning 'skills' have been relatively poor. Our 2 day course for SMEs attempts to address this. Personally, I don't think it's the SMEs fault. It is the fault of businesses who want L&D teams to deliver more with less, expecting them to use SMEs to support delivery of critical material, but then don't invest in the professional development of SMEs.

    Why spend time and money developing good quality learning materials and then engage inexperienced and untrained SMEs to deliver it?

    Best regards,



  2. Prezi

    Many SME's are also starting to experiment with Prezi…

    Unfortunately, bad Prezi is a lot worse than bad PowerPoint, now we have zooming slides full of words.  

  3. Let go of the ego

    They haven’t considered “who is the most important person in the room?” and if they did, they would probably say themselves, as, after all THEY are the subject matter experts are they not?  When I first became a trainer, it took me a while to realise the exciting bit was not how much I knew, but how much the leaner took away with them and I vowed then to always put the learner at the centre of everything I did. 


    Example: I do some volunteering providing first aid at events etc (use your imagination as to which organisation this is).  We have lots of healthcare professionals who also volunteer and the vast majorly of them will elbow you aside when an ‘interesting’ casualty is presented.  They love to show off their skills and sadly most volunteers put them on pedestals, in awe of this fantastic nurse or paramedic.  As someone who wants to learn and become a more effective first aider I find this annoying to say the least and my favourite duties are the one where the SME coaches me through an interesting case, not steals the limelight and takes all the credit and praise.  SMEs simply need to reign in their egos and realise it’s not about them, no matter how much of an expert they are.

  4. Flip Charts

    Not forgetting picking up one colour pen and continuing to use it until the flip chart is a sea of blue scribble.

    Other colours are available but rarely used!

Author Profile Picture
Steve Robson

Learning and Development Consultant

Read more from Steve Robson

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