By Susan Camberis
Editor, Training Today
ATDChi’s February Networking Clinic featured an orderly conversation with ATDChi Past President, Greg Owen-Boger and long-time ATDChi friend, Dale Ludwig about their latest book Effective SMEs: How to Help Subject Matter Experts Facilitate Learning (ATD, 2017). Pro tip: use ATDChi code CH5009 when purchasing the book.
Effective SMEs features real-life examples and tips based on Greg and Dale’s experiences at Turpin Communication and builds upon the key concepts described in their earlier book, The Orderly Conversation (Granville Circle Press, 2014).
My key take-away was a better understanding of the “orderly conversation” – both how it applies to training design and delivery, and how the framework can be used to work more effectively with SMEs.
The authors believe that training should feel like an “orderly conversation” where:
- “Orderly” refers to preparation, accuracy, and structure = instructional design (planning); and
- “Conversation” refers to engagement, spontaneity, and interactivity = instructor-led training (presenting).
According to Dale and Greg, “People tend to gravitate in one direction or the other.” They asked participants: Who are you more like?
- “Writers” tend to prefer the “orderly” side of the framework. They thrive on organization and preparation; they can sometimes seem inflexible and strict during training delivery. When designing for writers, be sure to include lots of prompts on your slides.
- “Improvisers” are individuals who tend to prefer the “conversation” itself. They thrive on forming connections and can sometimes lose focus during delivery. When designing for improvisers, provide cues to help them manage their time.
The model is easily applied to TD professionals and to the SMEs we work with. And, when we better understand our SMEs, we design more effective training.
Building on this idea, Greg and Dale shared a few additional practical tips for working with SMEs:
- “Slides are really about giving the SMEs visual cues,” the shared. For this reason, make sure slides include specific titles and include key points.
- Facilitator guides should be built with this same idea in mind – with a visual on one side of the page, and the “intent” of the slide (not a script) on the other. You need some structure for your “writers”, but if you are overly prescriptive, you’ll lose your “improvisers.”
- Learning objectives are great for instructional designers, but not always as helpful for SMEs and learners.
- Activities should be optional – provide a few alternatives for SMEs to determine what leaners need…or offer two options. Don’t assume that including icebreakers, games, or humor will be welcomed by SMEs.
- Help SMEs debrief. If you’re going to do an activity, it is crucial to spend the time to debrief. Listen for nuance, dig deeper, it’s not always about the right answer.
Greg and Dale concluded their orderly conversation with ATDChi by sharing the following: “Perfection in a conversation is never going to happen. It doesn’t have to be perfect; it just has to be a conversation.”
To learn more about Turpin Communication and The Orderly Conversation, visit: http://www.turpincommunication.com