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Get What You Need From Subject Matter Experts
We’ve all heard the age-old sentiment of “you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.” I think that still rings true in most situations in life, even in business when we try to interview subject matter experts to fulfill a training need. Using the following 3 steps when you interview subject matter experts to get what you need and help you bring the right amount of honey.
Getting what we need from those around us–coworkers, partners, or even 4 year olds –can be one of many age-old dilemmas that is more than challenging. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to negotiate with a 4 year old, but it is challenging to say the least and often very loud!
We tend to think that the honey in this saying above requires being sickeningly sweet with a whole lot of patience and “please” and “thank you” and “please, don’t use daddy’s toothbrush to brush Sandy’s teeth.” Sandy is our dog, and, yes, this just happened…yesterday.
No, you’ll need a different kind of honey to get what you want and need from a Subject Matter Expert (SME) to complete your project. Saying “please” and “thank you” is always nice, but that doesn’t necessarily get the job done or get you the information you need to complete the task at hand.
The kind of honey needed to catch a SME and get everything you need requires no real honey, just a sweet, sweet plan.
To Catch an Expert
Since you can’t be the subject matter expert (SME) in every field, it’s essential that you can tap into the knowledge of a SME to develop a quality learning solution, which meets the needs of your audience and best supports their learning.
SMEs have the knowledge you need, but they don’t always have the time or motivation to sit down and share their knowledge because they are busy being the expert that they are. You might need a creative solution to connect with your SME to get the information that you want.
You need a plan that allows your SME to compile the best information so that you, the training expert and instructional designer, can access it and organize it well. The following three steps will help pull your plan together with the right honey to catch an expert and get exceptional results.
#1 Define the Objectives
Before you set a meeting with a SME to pick their brain about the content, you first need to define all the objectives of the project–business objectives and learning objectives. I typically prefer to host a Scoping Meeting to define the learning objectives.
In an ideal world, the training requestor, SMEs, key stakeholders, and everyone who will work on the training would be present during the Scoping Meeting. Unfortunately, ideal world solutions don’t usually come together as I would like them to.
What often happens is one of two things, I am told a high-level goal and a few tidbits of information or I get something really generic like, “we need a training on X.” If I am a little lucky, I am told what the business objective/goals are. From there, I dig. I ask probing questions to piece together the business and learning objectives. And, all of this usually happens via email, which is NOT my preference, but I make it work.
Business objectives may answer questions like:
- Why does the company need this training?
- What business need does this training fulfill?
- When does this training need to be completed?
Learning objectives address desired behaviors and/or performance changes that a company wants to see in an employee, like:
- What should the learner be able to do following the training?
Writing quality learning objectives can be tricky, but they are SO important.
If you’re an objectives rookie or struggling with writing learning objectives that get results, I cover this in my course, The Instructional Design Lab, with a hands-on lesson and workbook activity that may help you go from rookie to expert in a matter of minutes.
Identifying objectives is not only the first step in building training solutions, those objectives also become the ground rules for meetings with a SME.
They are the anchor point for your instructional design of the content and everything you create, including activities, knowledge checks, assessments, etc, should directly or indirectly cascade up, or map, to the learning and business objectives.
Once you have the objectives defined, you should be able to identify what information you need from the SME. You can use the learning objectives to create a list of questions for your SME to use in a SME Interview. Being specific with this question list is KEY to a successful SME Interview.
#2 Interview the Subject Matter Experts
Now that you’ve got your objectives ironed out and a list of questions started, it’s time to schedule a SME Interview. Your SME is the subject matter expert who holds the necessary information and knowledge that you need to develop your learning solution.
Being an expert can be a double-edged sword, however. On the one side, they have the knowledge you need. On the other side, they know what seems like everything about the topic, which is often more than what you need.
Early on in my career when I was a training specialist, I was asked to meet with a SME to build a training with a specific deadline. I sent the meeting request. The SME and I met and me, with my adorable little pen and paper at the ready, made the common, critical mistake of just asking, “What can you tell me about x, y, and z?”
Fail. Fail so hard.
That SME started speaking high-level gibberish and I, not wanting to look stupid, stared back at them nodding like one of those bobbing chihuahuas on a car dash. The 30-minute meeting ended, and I went back to my desk feeling like my brain had just melted out of my ears.
SME Interview Tips
Prepared with my defined objectives and a specific list of questions, my next meeting with that same SME went a bit differently. Here’s a list of actions to make sure your SME Interviews never make you feel like your brain is melting out of your ears:
- Send your list of questions to your SME before the SME Interview. This allows the SME to focus on the information you need and prepare to share any additional information you might need. It also cuts down on wasted time during the interview.
- Share the business and learning objectives with the SME.
- Take notes. Take all the notes. Even if it’s on content that you don’t think you’ll use. You just never know, and it’s safer to have more than less to work with when developing the training. Plus, it makes the SME feel valued.
- Make a rough outline with the SME during the interview, if you can, and connect the content back to the learning objectives. This is what we call curriculum mapping! Expert stuff right here.
- End the interview with a restatement of objectives, what the next steps will be, and set the expectation that you may need to reach out again for more information or clarification.
These steps are so important when conducting a great SME Interview.
Keep the Interview Focused
All meetings can lose productivity when people go off on tangents or get off-topic. You will need to keep the focus on the objective of the interview so be prepared to reign folks in. Sometimes SMEs have some gripes about the training need or being taken away from their work to help with the training. Validate what they’re saying and show that you are listening to their needs. Then, you can gently get back on topic.
If I had followed this list, I would have had a much easier time making that first training. Now, you can go back to your desk with confidence and start building the training you need, but you’re not quite finished with your SME.
#3 Frequent Follow-Ups
Through the process of building your training, it’s important to check in with your SME to make sure you’re on the right track with the content. This can be a slippery slope as too much outside input can derail your objectives. It’s best to follow up at certain intervals throughout the building process.
Here’s a list I tend to stick with after the SME Interview:
- Send an updated copy of the outline to the SME and all key stakeholders following the SME Interview.
- Send a first draft of the training, once completed, with a timeline for review. I usually give a 2-day window for SMEs and all stakeholders to make comments or suggestions. Any longer and deadlines can get messy real quick.
- Make edits from the feedback received from the reviewers. You may have 2 to 3 review cycles, so plan for it in your timeline. It’s better to underpromise and overdeliver than to be too optimistic in your timeline and miss your deadline.
- Send the final draft. Give a 2-day window for any final adjustments or suggestions.
Following these steps–defining the objectives, SME Interviews, and frequent follow-ups–can help you carry out a sweet plan to get what you need from SMEs every time.
Please. Thank you. Don’t brush the dog’s teeth with daddy’s toothbrush.
My Facebook Group is a great place to add your questions and engage with other instructional designers on different topics related to instructional design, so jump on in and join the conversation.
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The Testimonials are In:
Working with Shanwtay and Katie at the Instructional Design Company was a dream come true. Their creativity, expertise, and professionalism throughout the entire process was beyond top notch. I engaged them to help turn my first book into a training course, and I could not be happier with how the final product turned out. If you have an instructional design project and you’re considering which company to work with, you can stop your search and thank me later. They are truly the best in the business.
I joined the Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program because I struggled to find jobs in instructional design beyond the development phase. I’ve done a couple of training programs with lots of random projects, but I was overwhelmed, not connecting the dots, and not good at structuring my writing to hit learning objectives. I was looking for motivation and direction at beginning a better Instructional Designer.
After taking the Instructional Design & Tech Certificate program and joining my fantastic team for support, I found the structure and approach to be what I need to take my next steps, evening improving my skills in the development stage.
Teacher, Future Instructional Designer
I love how this course let’s you work at your own pace. I got great tips and learned many things. The ongoing support for multiple people and groups is what I love the best. You are never alone in this process. I have been able to adjust my resume and began creating a portfolio of work I’ve completed to add when applying for jobs. I use many of the PowerPoint skills in my lessons and trainings. I would highly recommend this for anyone wanting to become an instructional designer.
Teacher, Future Instructional Designer
I have searched for the last few years to find some suitable career change where I wouldn’t have to earn another degree and where I could use the talents and skills I already have as a teacher. When I came across the Instructional Design Accelerator course, I loved the fact that Shawntay was a former teacher and could relate to a teacher’s need to transition from the classroom. This was what sold the course for me. Her experiences are invaluable especially when translating teacher duties to instructional designer duties. I would (and have) recommended this program to other teachers I know who are looking to transition out of the classroom. I do appreciate ALL of her feedback on my projects!
L&D Project Manager
The Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator certificate program is one of the most comprehensive ID programs out there for beginners. If you’re looking to grow your schools in ID and development then I highly recommend this program. Not only will this program give you an overview of theory, but you will receive a thorough walkthrough of how to apply what you have learned. Although I had already secured a position in Learning & Development when I bought this course, it helped me to move up into a new position as a Learning & Development Project Manager!
Future Instructional Designer
If you have any interest in ID, sign up for this program NOW! Shawntay and her team are top notch! The course content exceeded my expectations in a big way and the encouragement and support continues to be so valuable. You will not feel alone going through this course, you will learn so much, you’ll have many cheerleaders, and you will have fun!
Future Instructional Designer
I am really enjoying this program! It’s prerfect for someone who is thinking about a career shift to Instructional Design and does not have a lot of experience. This is my first real introduction to Instructional Design and it’s been the perfect beginner course to help me get my feet wet. The modules are broken down well and it’s great to go at your own pace and at your own time. The modules themselves are very comprehensive and you learn a lot from all of them. I really like how each one build upon each other and you’re working towards the bigger project of designing your first training course from scratch. I’m learning so much from going through this course! I was provided great feedback from Katie and Shawntay through the process via Trello Boards, comments on the Google documents, and Facebook group. This course has been well worth the time and effort and I appreciate the fact that I will always have the resources available to me after I complete the training (just in case I’m not quite ready to transition yet).
Future Instructional Designer
I can’t say enough great things about the Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program! The length of the program is perfect; it doesn’t feel rushed and there’s just the right amount of structure to give you the accountability you need. There are so many opportunities to get live answers to any questions you have related to the course content or anything ID-related! This program gave me the support and structure I needed to both feel affirmed in the relevant skills I already had coming in and to fill in the gaps I had as a career-changer going into ID. Shawntay, Katie, and all the coaches are super helpful and supportive. I now feel confident that I have the tools and access to resources I need to apply for ID jobs without wondering if there’s something I’m “missing” in the preparation process. I’d highly recommend this program to anyone wanting to transition into ID or who just wants to brush up on their skills in the field.
Krista Johnson Awomoyi
Freelance Instructional Designer
I’d highly recommend the Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program. I’m blown away by how much I learned in just 12 weeks. I had ID experience prior to taking this course and was just looking to get a better understanding of applying adult learning principles. This course well exceeded my expectations! Not only did I gain a clear understanding of adult learning principles, I was also able to apply those principles by creating assets for your portfolio using PowerPoint, Adobe Premiere Pro and Storyline. The hands on support that we received was top notch.
This program is one of the most robust yet fulfilling L&D programs I’ve seen. I learned so much about the industry and about the limitlessness of my own capabilities. I am so appreciative of Shawntay and all of the trainers who took part in the program. They went above and beyond with not only guiding, but communicating live and working one on one or in small groups. If you are on the fence, I say take the leap and you will not regret it! There’s so much to learn, not only from the trainers, but also the learners in your group. Everyone comes in with their own skills and can be additional support and guidance for you. Thank you for creating this program!
Instructional Designer Training Facilitator
Shawntay is an amazing individual. She is very knowledgeable in all aspects of ID and eLearning. She is also very compassionate and loves to help and see everyone around her grow and prosper. Shawntay has been a great mentor to me and she has helped me mature as an instructional designer and eLearning developer. She has provided me with opportunities when others have overlooked me. I am very grateful to have met and built a lifelong relationship with Shawntay.
I recently got hired into my first instructional design / training position and Shawntay was one of the first people to congratulate me!
Freelance Instructional Designer
My teacher-to-instructional-designer journey began two years ago when I left my teaching comfort zone and started my first freelance ID job. Now, I’m stepping out of the classroom and taking my freelance work full-time, so I’m thrilled to be joining the Tech Accelerator program. Adding technologies like Articulate 360 and Adobe Premiere Pro to my qualifications will help me take my courses to the next level and attract more clients!
Teacher Transitioning into Instructional Design
I am genuinely grateful for this course. I wanted a real-world perspective and feel like I got it. I’m teaching now, but nearing retirement age but can see myself working as an instructional designer well into my retirement years. My other goal is to take as many courses in statistics as possible in hopes of bringing some mathematical precision to the ROI question. Like you say, getting accurate metrics to measure ROI can be a challenge, but I intend to work on that part. That’s unimportant right now, what is important is the fact that I feel like this course was well worth every penny I spent and I would to it again in a heartbeat. I have too much going on right now, but as soon as I get some time freed up I intend to take your course in project management.
Turns Your Written Thoughts Into a Masterpiece!
Shawntay Skjoldager can turn your written thoughts into a masterpiece. She is great to work with and the most organized person I know!
President and CEO, The Creative Entreprenuer
Shawntay has been incredible!
Shawntay has been incredible and her team is responsive and effective in translating my training programs into professional presentations. Don’t hesitate to contact her for your project.
Beth B. De Lima, MBA, SPHR-CA, SHRM-SCP
President and Principal of HRM Consulting, Inc.
IDC is My Secret Weapon to Soar Above My Competition!
The IDC team has been my secret and special weapon of success. They have delivered above and beyond with every single project out in front of them. They have met and beat timelines. They have been Uber responsive every step of the way. I keep them on speed dial and have and continue to recommend them to friends and clients. If you are in need of instructional design and plenty more, this is THE ALL-STAR team that will more than deliver and help make you and your project soar above the competition.
LT. COL. Jason O. Harris
U.S. Air Force Officer, Special Operations Pilot, U.S.A.F. Academy Instructor, Motivational Speaker
A Tremendous Asset to the Project Team!
Working with Shawntay and the Instructional Design Company has allowed our university to meet the growing demands of our programs. Shawntay’s expertise allowed for the course development to be completed on time and met all of the university requirements. Shawntay’s project management skills were phenomenal and allowed my team to work on other areas while she completed this project for us. Her work is of high quality and her professionalism and willingness to help made her a tremendous asset to the project team.
Academic Quality Assurance Specialist, Abilene Christian University
Creative & Highly Talented!
Shawntay is a creative and highly talented instructional designer. She brought a wealth of knowledge, expertise, and leadership that enabled her to own the design and creation of a full scale facilitator curriculum and train-the-trainer program. It was a pleasure to partner with Shawntay, her project management and communication skills ensured the project was on time and on budget.
Breaks Down Mammoth Projects
“Shawntay is quick study and carefully synthesizes information for presentations that are clear, concise and captivating. Her personality draws the audience in and her content mastery is excellent. A team player and organizer, Shawntay has the ability to break down mammoth projects, keep everybody on time and on task.”
Author, Speaker, Strengths Coach
“I have had many opportunities to work with Shawntay—mainly in the support of implementing new eLearning initiatives. I have been very impressed by her ability to quickly learn how to use rapid eLearning development tools and effectively use them to create multiple courses within a short timeframe. Shawntay’s enthusiastic nature, attention to detail, and dedication to her work make her a pleasure to work with and a great asset to both Texas A&M University-Commerce and the broader training community within the Texas A&M University System.”
Director of Learning Strategy, Caveo Learning
Top Notch Professional
Working with Shawntay has been an immense pleasure. She is atop notch professional who brings enthusiasm and extensiveexpertise to professional curriculum development and execution. Her knowledge of tried and true techniques to maximize the effectiveness of presentations is invaluable.
Nancy Drapeau, PRC
Vice President of Research, CEIR - Center for Exhibition Industry Research
Fortunate to Find Shawntay!
“I was fortunate to find Shawntay when our organization was looking to expand and update our educational offerings. Shawntay proved herself to be an educational and personal development expert who immediately made an impact with our clients throughout Europe. Everyone who came into contact with Shawntay was immediately impressed by her level of expertise and willingness to share her knowledge with those around her. I would not hesitate to recommend Shawntay to anyone looking for an education subject matter expert.”
Director of Qualifications and NSD Services, Mary Kay Inc.
Short Turn Around. On Time. Under Budget!
“We hired Shawntay to develop a training facilitator’s guide and PowerPoint slide deck for an operations manual heavy with technical content. The project was made more challenging by a very short turn around, 5 business days, and the fact that the operations manual wasn’t complete and was being updated simultaneously with the facilitator’s guide and slide deck. Despite these challenges, Shawntay delivered as promised. On time and under budget.”
Dave Beeman, CPP
Vice President, Andy Frain Services
Need an Expert Who Consistently Delivers?
“Working with Shawntay you will immediately notice her professional presence and poise, but over time her tenacious pursuit of excellence and her skills in instructional development and adult learning will really impress you. I worked with her at Mary Kay, and was able to experience firsthand her great rapport with regional partners in Europe, understanding their unique sales force training needs. In addition, Shawntay consistently exhibited grace under pressure, made executive decisions to move business forward. If you are looking for an expert who consistently delivers and goes the extra mile to get things done, contact Shawntay!”
Marketing Director, Academic Partnerships
Quality Products & Solutions!
“I had had the pleasure of knowing and working with Shawntay on more than a few occasions. I found her to be a very good business partner and very committed to delivering a quality product or solution in a timely manner. I have always had a positive experience in partnering with Shawntay and would recommend that you consider leveraging her talent.”
Judy Owen, CPC
Transformational Leadership Coach
“Invest in yourself and take your skills to the next NEXT level!”
Get yourself signed up for Shawntay Skjoldager’s Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program today and be on your way to success! Within the first week of taking her course, you will experience growth! Be sure to plug into her Facebook Q&A sessions for personalized help, too. This is THE course to take if you are new to instructional design or have landed on the training team and need help getting started.
Managing Partner, PHiG
“Her enthusiasm for adult learning is contagious!”
Shawntay has exceptional knowledge and experience with all aspects of creating and implementing effective, performance based training for adults. She is exceptional at needs analysis – identifying target audiences and collaborating with business owners to keep training focused on business needs. And she is great to work with – always providing great support to get projects done on-time and on-target. She is always on the look-out for new and more effective ways to engage learners. Her enthusiasm for adult learning is contagious!
eLearning Developer/Instructional Designer, Vivos Therapeutics
I have known and worked with Shawntay as a education program director and use the expertise of ShawntayMichelle for the development of my presentations. The service has always been “spot on” with professionalism, care and attention. Shawntay’s recommendations to my ideas make me look good to my clients.
Al Lomas CMP, CEM, CMM, CFE
Owner, Certified Consulting Services
“Shawntay Skjoldager reached in and made my training life so much easier!”
I am new to the training design and development world and I was SO excited to get in there, but I really lacked the real-world knowledge that would set me apart from my peers. And, then Shawntay Skjoldager walked into my life with an outstretched hand and a seemingly endless list of ways to knock every training out of the park. From the Training Analysis Form to the Tay Tay tips, this course made my life so much easier and even ironed out the review process that I had been struggling with for months.
Take time to invest in your own learning and make sure to put Shawntay Michelle at the top of your personal development list!
Training Specialist, LegalShieldCourses