SME’s turned expert facilitators

Subject Matter Experts (SME’s) do not always make the greatest facilitators, at least at first. Often they make the mistake of assuming the learners know what they are talking about, or they might have little confidence and knowhow when it comes to public speaking let alone facilitating! Today I attended a training course where I watched people who were not career facilitators, trainers or L&D folk give some pretty nifty presentations on the fly.

We were tasked to facilitate a short presentation on a random topic and were given with very limited time to prepare. I watched people with varying degrees of confidence present topic and connect with us as participants in different ways. Everyone has their own unique style of facilitating and great facilitators vary their style depending on the situation; however this activity allowed us to see what ‘felt natural’ to each person. I can summarise what I saw into the following:

  • The energy champion – they work the room, use the space, hand gestures are plenty and they are animated in their delivery.
  • The structured consultant – they are very logical, have a clear sequence and don’t like to divert from the plan.
  • The group therapist – great at reflecting back what participants are saying, reading between the lines and capturing the message.
  • The presenter – delivers the content but finds it difficult to know how to engage the participants.

So obviously my observations aren’t based on science, but it does raise the question about how we get our SME’s ready to facilitate. I see this as a five step process.

  1. Understanding your style
  2. Understanding other styles
  3. Capitalising on your strengths
  4. Learning how to shake it up
  5. Mastering participant connection

The activity we did today was so valuable to my learning. I fall into the first category – it’s my natural style to be animated when it comes to delivering training to a group. But today helped me to really evaluate other styles in a really short space of time. Even though I am across personality and behavioural styles , sessions like this give quick feedback and proactive reminder about style and the ability to flex in and out and think on your feet.

So next time you are preparing your SME for success have a think about the ways you can help them master their personal style, maintain authenticity and connect with the participants all at the same time.

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