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ASK, NOT TELL

....and many other thoughts about facilitation, coaching ( teams & individuals) and learning

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  • David

Making the SME a better trainer

Updated: Mar 5

I ran a 5-day training course last week. More than a trainer, I was a course coordinator who composed some 15 SME (Subject Matter Experts) other than myself. Whilst they are really experts in their respective fields, and they do not necessarily have to be good in training. In fact, this has been a challenge for most training professionals, especially in China where it is not easy to find full time qualified trainers.


As I was observing at one of the sessions last week, I gathered my thoughts and summarized on what can be done to make the SMEs better trainer. Well, after all, it should be my job as the coordinator from the training department. Here are my thoughts:

'TTT' them - It is the most obvious thing to do. Train them so that they can be a good trainer / presenter. However, this is however often not feasible since they could not spare much time... and more importantly attention to it. Moreover, quite a lot are not aware that their delivery skill is not enough;

One skill at a time - Given the above constraint, a follow-up thought is to limit their delivery behavioral change to only one item e.g. asking lots of questions;

Get the volunteered rather than the senior speakers - When I first invited the SMEs to talk, I tend to go for those as senior as possible. I did so because it would raise the profile of the course. If I am going to do it again, I would consider those who volunteered to be equally desirable. The volunteered ones are much more willing to improve their facilitation skills;


‘Program’ their delivery – This is something which I plan to do in the next round of this course. Instead of letting the SMEs to take over the whole floor from the first second, I shall do an opener from them in the beginning. For example, run a 5 mins group discussion to draw out the participants’ interest. The purpose is to:

  1. Break the ice for both (and between) the SMEs and the participants;

  2. Help the SMEs to engage the participants;

  3. Help the SMEs to stay focused to what is wanted;

  4. Add fun / atmosphere into the class;

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