Join Jolie Miller for an in-depth discussion in this video Getting to know the SME, part of Instructional Design Essentials: Working with SMEs.
- Candor and communication is a benchmark of the health and strength of a relationship. SME interactions are no different. First you build a relationship, then you build your communication skills, and over time you're rewarded with trust. It's worth the time investment to get to know your SME and his or her work so you can build that foundation from day one. So before you even pick up the phone or go to a first meeting, invest in researching your SME and the topic. In the exercise files for this course, I've included a template that looks just like what I have on screen in Google Drive.
You can use this to guide your research and prepare for a first conversation. So let's take a look at how I'd research Jeff Toister. What I'm looking for is to understand more about all of these blank spots I have on my research form. So the first thing I do is go to Jeff's bio, read a little bit about how he got here. Then I would go to his website, I would learn everything that I could, maybe the solutions or the different resources that are available. And I would also take a look at his Amazon page so I can better understand a little bit more about his book, and how that book might fit in with any of the content we're going to create together.
Finally, I'd want to take a look at Jeff's social media presence, if it's available, because this tells me how he interacts with his audience and the kinds of things that are meaningful to him. Now, once I have a lot of this information gleaned, what I'm doing is I'm inputting it line by line into this form. I find it helpful to keep this in a shareable format in case it needs to be shared with someone else on a team. But you can really download this, use it as a Word doc, really make it a tool that works for you. You can see Jeff has a lot of researchable information I can look at, but even if your SME isn't a published author with a fancy website, you can do a simple Google search or check out other internal training they've done, even peruse their social media to see what interests them.
Just about everyone has a LinkedIn profile these days, and that's another great resource of info to discover work history and expertise. Include as much or as little detail in the template as you'd like. You'll find that over time this becomes a habit, and writing notes in the forms helpful, but you can just as easily take notes in a project management tool, a contact file, or just commit them to memory. Once you've done your homework on the subject matter expert, separately jot some notes about the subject matter that you can have handy to make your first meeting productive.
In our example with Jeff's customer service content, in addition to researching him I joined a few customer service tweetups on Twitter, I start reading customer service blogs, in order to get a feel for the language, and I monitor other trends that are happening in the industry. The goal is really to become conversant, not expert in your knowledge. You always want to walk into your first interaction with a SME having prepared for the meeting. It respects their time and establishes that you care enough about their content to know what you're working with before you get started.
The course also shows you how to set up project schedules, overcome common obstacles, and use a variety of approaches to ensure that the content you build together will be stronger than the content either of you would build alone. The lessons are framed by a fictional ID/SME relationship that models how the two partners work together to create a customer-service training session.
- What is an SME?
- Understanding how designers and SMEs interact
- Getting to know the SME
- Building a schedule
- Outlining the content
- Managing deliverables
- Retaining the SME's voice
- Incorporating feedback
- Launching the content