Building Bridges

10 Tips for Subject Matter Experts Who Deliver Training

Are you, or is someone you know, a subject matter expert who delivers training?

As companies continue to streamline their expenses, they are calling upon subject matter experts more and more to prepare and deliver training. If that describes you, read on for useful tips before, during, and after the training event.

Before the Class

There are a number of things you can do before a class to ensure the attendees (actually, I prefer to call them “learners” as a constant reminder of their role in the classroom) are engaged and to help them transfer learning to their jobs.

1. Help managers help you

Consider this question: What do the learners need from managers in order to successfully apply on their jobs what they learn in your classroom?

Certainly learners need managers to free up their schedules for the time they participate in training. It is also helpful for managers to know the course objectives and key points so they can ask learners specific questions about the class. When managers have access to a course overview – perhaps via a short webinar – they are more likely to be able to support the training and help transfer learning to the job. Add even more value by recommending ways for managers to remove obstacles to learners’ job performance. For example, if you are teaching about a new process and the computer system supporting that process isn’t fully functional, what suggestions do you have to work around the issue?

2. Talk with the audience

You know what they say about assumptions. So, don’t assume you know your audience until you’ve spent some time with them. Speak with a sample of the audience ahead of time to help you ensure the training is relevant.

  • Do learners have the level of experience you anticipated?
  • What is getting in the way of applying what they will learn in class to their jobs?
  • How do they like to learn (e.g., through activities, pictures, discussions, case studies)?

3. A picture is worth, well, at least a 100 words

It’s true. A well-done diagram, flowchart, or other graphic can rapidly convey what might require many, perhaps hundreds of, words. In fact, some learners absorb the information much more effectively when you present it graphically. Need help? Check your version of PowerPoint to see what tools are available for creating flowcharts and other graphics. Or maybe someone on your team enjoys creating diagrams and would be happy to assist you.

4. PowerPoint slides ? your notes

If you use PowerPoint, use slides to illustrate your main points with appropriate graphics. You know your stuff, so list key points as succinct phrases rather than complete sentences. They will be all you need to prompt you to cover salient information. If you need more details, use the notes section of PowerPoint. When you print out the Notes Pages, you have an instant instructor guide.

5. Prepare, prepare, prepare

Subject matter experts, just as highly experienced trainers, need to prepare to deliver training. It’s not only about the content, but also about facilitating and anticipating.

  • What questions will you ask learners to get them involved and thinking about the content?
  • What activities will you facilitate, and what are the instructions?
  • What materials and equipment do you need?
  • How will the room be set up?
  • What questions do you anticipate the learners will ask you?

Doing a dry run, with a small audience, will help ensure you’ve thought of everything.

During the Class

6. Don’t take a stand

Moving around the room helps you engage learners as well as manage your adrenaline. Think about where you’ll be moving, where learners can see and hear you best, and how you’ll integrate your location in the room with visuals. Avoid pacing back and forth and, please, avoid the spotlight. In other words, don’t stand in front of the projector!

7. Don’t tell all

You are the subject matter expert and, by definition, you likely know a lot more about the topic than those in your class. That said, learners would be overwhelmed to hear everything you can tell them. So, stick to your plan and focus on what your audience needs to know to achieve the course objectives.

8. Engage learners

There are many ways to engage learners, which you would plan during preparation. Here are a few:

  • Explain the purpose and goal of the course.
  • Tell compelling stories that illustrate your point.
  • Include (and don’t cut) an activity for each major learning point.
  • Create activities that require learners to do something physical, such as move around the room or chart their findings.
  • Provide clear instructions for activities.
  • Ask questions to get learners to state the key learning points.


If you’ve prepared thoroughly, you won’t need to read detailed notes. Simply refer to key points you might have made in your PowerPoint notes to keep you on track.

After the Class

10. Your job continues

Once the class is done, you aren’t. Here are some post-class activities to plan for:

  • Follow up on outstanding questions or actions you committed to.
  • Check in with learners via e-mail or set up a “group” via company intranet or other appropriate type of social media to keep open communication and support ongoing learning.
  • Continue to support learners’ managers to help ensure the learning will “stick” and your efforts will have an impact.

If you will be training in the near future, use the 10 tips to guide you. Consider scheduling time right now to give yourself adequate time to prepare and follow up.