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What a Subject Matter Expert Needs to Know About Training

Gilda Bonanno

What a Subject Matter Expert Needs to Know About Training

If you are a subject matter expert, you may be called on to conduct training and share what you know about your area of expertise. However, it’s not as simple as putting everything you know on slides and presenting them to the audience.

It’s not enough to know the topic well, you also need to know how to communicate your expertise to others; for example, how to engage the participants and help them connect what they’re learning to how they will apply it.

Below is a checklist of elements and skills you need to be familiar with to help ensure that your training is successful and “sticks” with the participants.


Know the content
Understand participants’ level of familiarity with the material
Understand how the participants learn: different learning styles/generations
Plan any pre-work required
Anticipate questions
Plan how much time for the overall training and how much time for each topic, balancing too much vs. too little content
Plan training logistics: timings, breaks, room set-up and environment, training modalities, learning environment and culture
Develop materials for training, using different training modalities: lecture, small group discussion, slides, video, audio, flip chart, smart board, hands on, action learning, etc.
Structure training exercises to maximize participants’ involvement and learning

Explain the purpose of the training and how it fits within the context of their role
Set learning objectives
Establish ground rules with the participants, including holding participants accountable for their own learning

Introduce concept/topic and explain in different ways
Keep group engaged and focused
Focus on practical applications and practice of new skills
Facilitate group discussion and training exercises
How to ask open-ended questions
How to give feedback – both positive and constructive for growth and development
How to handle questions and encourage them without getting off track
How to stay on time
How to manage group and handle any dysfunctional behavior


Check for understanding
Address remaining questions
Set action steps for practical application of skills learned and possible discussion with manager


Conduct post-training surveys of participants and their managers
Follow up post-training: check in for understanding and application
Reflect on what you did well and what you’d like to improve the next time you conduct training

Getting comfortable with these skills will make you a better trainer and help you share what you know with a wider audience.

Gilda Bonanno is a speaker, trainer and coach who helps people from all walks of life improve their communication and presentation skills.

Copyright (c) 2015

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