How to Find & Focus Your Voice as a Subject Matter Expert

So you’re a pro. Everyone comes to you as the expert on this topic. You know you’ve got a ton of knowledge to share, but you just don’t know how to create and deliver a training.Of course, we’ve all seen the mountains of online articles, how-to videos, and must-read books on this topic. Adult learning and facilitation are deep topics, but here are a few quick best practices to get you started. It may take some time to find your own voice -- don’t forget to enjoy the process instead of rushing to get it done at the last minute.

  1. Discussion is better than a lecture
  2. You shouldn’t be the only person talking. Lectures are proven an ineffective way for someone to learn. People learn by testing, trying and talking. When you alone lead the conversation, you’ll drive where you want to go. By allowing for intermittent tangents, you can customize your message and let your audience take the wheel, building commitment and empathy around the experience.
  3. Ask lots of open-ended questions. You might be surprised by the input and learn a little something yourself! If you’re nervous, plan out which questions you’ll ask before. The silence after you ask may seem deafening and last a lifetime. Be patient and let the curiosity of the crowd take control, even if only briefly.
  4. Prepare
  5. This one is pretty obvious. If you’re reading this article, you’re the kind of person who will practice and prepare. Whenever you’re new to an audience or to sharing about a specific topic, you’ll want to rehearse enough to be able to give the major highlights of the presentation with little to no hesitation or resistance.
  6. That being said, try not to prepare a speech or stress about exact phrases; you don’t want to feel tied to a script. Instead focus on the ideas. Have a few words on the screen to remind yourself of where you wanted to go. Rehearsing prior will help build your intuition around the topic, which will put everyone at ease.
  7. Start small! If you are brand new at facilitating learning or a training, practice on a few friends or co-workers ahead of time. You’ll feel so much more confident once you’ve had a chance to say things out loud and gather feedback from your trusted team of supporters.
  8. Don’t try to share everything
  9. You’re leading this training because you have a wealth of knowledge. However, the goal of this training isn’t for you to flaunt everything you know. Play around with variations of how you can present information to find what’s most comfortable for you.Be explicit about 3-5 main takeaways. Create each presentation specifically for the people in the room.
  10. If you’re in a crowd of new hires - what’s most actionable for the novice? Talking with managers? - what’s most useful for the intermediate? Only in high profile demonstrations should you discuss what’s most interesting for the expert.
  11. Follow up!
  12. Don’t rely on your own experience to become a better presenter. Get feedback from the learners. What do they plan to implement? If they were leading the session, what might they have done differently? Every presentation and training should include feedback mechanisms to ensure you’re constantly improving.
  13. If you offered to share additional resources or a recording of the training, make sure you do it the same day. Timing matters - people will forget or feel less engaged even a day later.

Planning, presenting, and collecting feedback can seem like a daunting process if you’re starting from scratch. Just remember it’s a symbol of your achievement and be sure to look forward to the time allotted to you. Use it well, and you’ll certainly be asked to do it again.

Stephanie Goodwin

By Stephanie Goodwin, Learning & Development Manager at Premier Talent Partners

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