SME Love: 5 Tips for Working with a Subject Matter Expert

Maize Blue

If an instructional designer is the architect of an eLearning program, then the SME is definitely the engineer. Filling in the blanks and ensuring that curriculum is accurate, the subject matter expert helps puts the nuts and bolts of an eLearning program together. And, as an integral part of the team, subject matter experts need to be properly prepped and respected, even if schedules are hectic and topics are complicated.

1. Do Some Homework on SME Keywords

Don’t show up to an interview or meeting completely unprepared. Even if you’re not expected to know everything about subject matter, researching a little so you can have an intelligent collaboration makes your SME feel more comfortable.

2. Establish Expectations Before It’s Too Late

If you have tight deadlines and specific goals, let your SME in on the secret. Establishing expectations at the beginning of the project ensures that your subject matter expert is on board with scheduling and knows exactly what is expected of him to avoid confused communication and missed deadlines.

3. Give Your SME Examples

If you want a specific type of information from your SME, provide examples. Show him other eLearning programs you like and outline the type of questions you’ll be discussing. You can even email a list of q’s a day or two before your meeting for even more prep.

4. Respect is a Two Way Street

SMEs are typically very busy people, so you’ll need to be respectful of schedules. Work around your SME’s current obligations and you’ll be working with a more willing participant. It might stretch your deadlines, but the information is the most important portion of your program.

5. Send a Thank You Email

Once your work with the SME is done, send a thank you email and copy his supervisor on the email as well. That way, they know that you appreciate the effort and will be more likely to work with you in the future.

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