The Orderly Conversation Podcast

Coaching Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) to be Better Trainers

March 05, 2020 Dale Ludwig, Greg Owen-Boger, & Barbara Egel Episode 4
The Orderly Conversation Podcast
Coaching Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) to be Better Trainers
Show Notes

Subject Matter Experts bring a depth of experience, credibility, and relevance to live instructor-led training. Their contributions and institutional knowledge are immeasurable.

Reliance on them in the training room also brings a certain amount of risk because SMEs are not, in most cases, experts in facilitation. It’s our responsibility then, as learning professionals, to do what we can to design learning events to play to their strengths and to coach them to be successful in the training room.

In this episode, Dale and Greg discuss their work with SMEs that led ATD (the Association for Talent Development) to ask them to write a book about their experiences. That book is titled “Effective SMEs: A Trainer’s Guide for Helping Subject Matter Experts Facilitate Learning.”

Key concepts in this episode include

  • Instructional design is different when designing for SMEs than it is when designing for professional facilitators. 
  • SMEs often want to take an academic approach, which is understandable, but inappropriate for corporate learning environments.
  • Recognizing that learners are Busy People at Work can lead to better training outcomes.
  • Helping SMEs understand their role in making sure training leads to business results is important.
  • All trainers, including SMEs, need to be business savvy.
  • The brand of L&D can be put in jeopardy when SMEs don’t understand how to be TD (talent development) savvy.
  • When choosing SMEs to facilitate learning, it’s important to look for the right skillset. 
  • Scripting SMEs doesn’t work. Showing intention behind the design does.

Learn more about improving the performance of your SMEs-turned-trainers here,

Turpin Communication is a business communication training company. We build the skills presenters, meeting facilitators, and trainers need to achieve their goals, work more efficiently, and grow leadership capabilities. Our process is about simplification and personalization. We untangle confusing assumptions, clarify fuzzy definitions, and reject the tyranny of generic rules.

As communication trainers and coaches, Dale and Greg help businesspeople, or as they call them “Busy People at Work,” communicate more effectively and efficiently. They do that in workshop settings and private coaching sessions.

Learn more at