10 top tips for working with SMEs

As a Content Developer, I have the privilege of working with Subject Matter Experts on almost every project. I’ve found that common sense and maintaining a level of professionalism are just a few of the key factors in forming successful relationships and incredible courses. I thought it would be helpful to elaborate, so I’ve compiled a list of 10 top tips for working with your SMEs:


1. Show them an example

It’s important that SMEs understand what you are trying to achieve, so show them an example of a finished elearning course. Discuss your previous experiences with SMEs and explain how you’ve found success working together in the past. In short, get your SME prepared.


2. Listen and observe

Be an attentive audience. Listen intensively, and if you are being shown something or watching a demonstration, keep focus and maintain good eye contact. It’s important that your SME knows you are eager to be part of the team.


3. Communicate

Keep a constant dialogue going, even when your session together has ended. A good rapport means that if you need clarification on anything it will be easy for you to send them an email or give them a call without feeling awkward.


4. Think outside the box

Go above and beyond with your thinking. Ask the SME for numerous examples and scenarios so that you have plenty of choices to work with. Ask about the learners – what kind of skills do they possess and what skills are they trying to obtain? This will help to put yourself in the SMEs shoes.


5. Be engaged and interested

By being engaged and showing interest in the subject matter, you can make your SME feel respected and important. They are more likely to open up and share extra useful information that will help you build a best-in-class course.


6. Take notes

When you finally put your elearning course together, you are bound to have forgotten some information. So, make sure you take thorough, legible notes. Hey, you could even ask if you can use a Dictaphone to record your SME’s instructions.


7. Be involved

This is particularly important when you’re being shown a computer system. Simulations should work just as the real system would, so have a go at it yourself and get to know the software’s intricacies.


8. Ask questions

Don’t be shy – you will get the best out of your SME by asking lots of questions. There’s no such thing as asking too many. Be as inquisitive as you possibly can and don’t go counting on them to guess what you need to know.


9. Repeat and confirm

A great way to make sure you understand the SME is to repeat what they’ve just told you. The SME can then either confirm or explain it again. Do this at regular intervals. If you start to get information overload, take a breather, and pick up where you left off later.


10. Recap

At the end of your session, re-cap everything! This will really help the information sink into your brain, and it’s a great opportunity to confirm your understanding of everything you just learned.


These 10 tips certainly work for me, and I know they’ll work for you too. So, print this list out, and the next time you have an appointment with an SME, you’ll be well prepared!

So now you know how to work with your SMEs, why not check out our top tips for effective elearning development?