Coaching SMEs to be Expert Facilitators of Learning

May 13, 2014 in Author, Greg Owen-Boger, Posts for Buyers, Talent Development, Training

UPDATE: Back By Popular Demand

Greg’s been asked back to deliver this same session two more times at the 2015 Association for Talent Development International Conference & Exposition (ATD ICE).


ASTD ICE 5-13-14I had the pleasure of speaking at the ASTD (renamed ATD mid-conference) International Conference & Exposition in Washington, DC last week. The audience for my session included instructional designers and leaders within the training & development function. The topic was about ways to coach SMEs to be more effective in the training room.

The session, as you can see from the picture, was packed. Over 200 people attended, and more would have joined had the room moderator not closed the door and turned people away. I was reminded (again) how hungry the training industry is for help working with their Subject Matter Experts.

Why Bother with SMEs?
There’s good reason to involve SMEs in the training process. They bring credibility, depth, and enterprise-wide perspective. They can also cause frustration for everyone involved, including the learner. And when learners are frustrated, learning doesn’t happen as fully or as efficiently as it should.[Tweet “when #learners are frustrated, #learning doesn’t happen as fully or as efficiently as it should.”]

The Challenge We See
In our experience, working with SMEs to improve their effectiveness in the training room, my colleagues and I have discovered a few things:

  • Materials, slides, and facilitator guides are rarely created with the SME’s delivery style and experience level in mind.
  • SMEs want to do a good job as trainers, but they don’t fully understand what the job is and what’s expected of them.
  • They usually focus too much on the information rather than the application of the information to their learners’ jobs.
  • They don’t understand how to frame the information to provide proper context to the learners.
  • They often aren’t given proper training.

In short, organizations aren’t setting the SMEs up for success. They’re not getting the resources they need to be effective presenters and facilitators of learning. This, in turn, leads to dull learning events and the loss of learners’ good will.

The Solution
Let’s not beat up on SMEs too much. They mean well, but they need help.

On the instructional design side, they need materials designed to support them and their unique needs. Design elements that work for professional trainers don’t necessarily work for others outside the industry.

In the training room, once the session starts, they need to understand that they wear two hats.

  1. The Expert Hat is the obvious hat that they wear. This is the one they wear when they are talking about data, details, and their area of expertise.
  2. The Trainer Hat is less obvious, but a much more important hat. This is the hat they need to put on to provide context, connect dots, and to facilitate learning and the application of the information to the learners’ jobs.

Once they understand their dual purpose in the training room, SMEs are much better able to facilitate learning.

Contact us at info@turpincommunication.com to learn how we can help your SMEs be more effective in the training room.

Postscript #1: SMEs From the Ground Up
I was glad my session at ATD ICE was on Tuesday because that gave me an opportunity to sit in on Chuck Hodell’s session on Monday. He wrote the recent book SMEs From the Ground Up. If you work with SMEs, I highly recommend it. He has some fresh thinking that’s well worth taking a look at. During his session, Chuck talked about ways to manage SME relationships, set expectations, and celebrate their accomplishments.

Perhaps his most impressive thinking, though, is around redefining who the SMEs are on any given project. He writes, “… SMEs are both content-related and process-related. The programmer, the writer, the teacher/trainer and the manager are all SMEs in ways that matter in our work. Identifying and working with all of these specific types of SMEs provides endless possibilities for improved products and processes.”

Postscript #2: Is that Flat Stanley in the Picture Above?
Yes! Not only did I get to speak with 200 learning & development professionals, I got to do it with my Great Nephew Jayce’s Flat Stanley! It’s a cool project. If you’re not familiar with Flat Stanley, click this link: https://www.flatstanley.com/about

by Greg Owen-Boger, VP at Turpin Communication and co-author of the upcoming book, “The Orderly Conversation”

eLearning with Personality

April 7, 2013 in Author, Find Your Focus Video, Greg Owen-Boger, Talent Development, Training, Video, Virtual

greg 200x300“I think your eLearning courses succeed because they have personality.”

This comment was part of a conversation I was having with an L&D peer at a conference recently. I was really happy to hear it. When we were putting our eLearning courses together, we thought a lot about how we were going to engage learners in the conversation. We wanted our instructors to seem spontaneous and genuine.

I disagree with what I’ve been hearing on social media about how ineffective talking head video is in eLearning. The problem isn’t the fact that we’re seeing a person on the screen. The problem is seeing someone who’s clearly uncomfortable.

So when we use talking heads in our video, we need to find a way to ensure the speaker’s personality comes through.

I’ve been making the rounds of the workplace learning & development conferences speaking on this very topic.

Here’s a link to my speaking schedule.

Turpin Communication has put together a few videos to help people learn to do this as well.

Make Your Videos Authentic
The other day I came across an article someone had posted on Facebook. It was about how small business owners should use video to market themselves. “Keep your video authentic” was the first of 5 recommendations the author made. Although the article is written to a different audience, the same thing applies to eLearning video.

So if you’re thinking about producing eLearning talking head video, think about the learners’ experience. No learner wants to sit through an online course with stilted, painful, inauthentic video. They want to get in, be engaged in an authentic way, learn what they need to learn, and get on with things. Let’s make sure we do that.

Need help for yourself or coaching for someone else? Watch this video.

Learn more about On-camera Coaching.

By Greg Owen-Boger, VP at Turpin Communication and co-author of the upcoming book, “The Orderly Conversation” 

Adult Learners Often Need to Unlearn Before Learning

January 21, 2013 in Author, Facilitation, Greg Owen-Boger, Myths Debunked, Presentation, Talent Development, Training

greg 200x300If you’ve known us and our work here at Turpin Communication for any period of time, you know that we spend a great deal of time debunking myths and helping people unlearn unhelpful (and sometimes harmful) ideas about presenting, facilitating, and training.

You need only visit our blog section on Myths Debunked to get a good understanding of where we stand on old ideas about not reading your slides, never turning your back to your audience, looking over peoples’ heads, and the use of ice breakers (just to name a few).

This is why I was excited to see this article by Jane Bozarth called “Nuts & Bolts: Unlearning” on the Learning Solutions Magazine blog. Seems we’re not the only ones helping our clients unlearn.

Jane is considered to be one of the major thought leaders in the Workplace Learning & Performance industry. I’ve had the pleasure of attending her sessions at conferences. Her content is always fresh and she’s always genuine. Here’s her article’s opening sentences. I hope you read the rest. She’s spot on.

One of the givens in working with adult learners is the importance of helping them access prior knowledge and building on what they already know. But what if that prior knowledge is no longer useful, or the skills no longer applicable, or it was never very accurate in the first place?

Read the entire article.

What do you need to unlearn? What can you help others unlearn? Let us know in the comments below.

By Greg Owen-Boger, VP and Trainer at Turpin Communication

20-year Milestone for Turpin Communication

August 27, 2012 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Posts for Buyers

This week marks Turpin Communication’s 20th year in business. Although we’ve had 19 anniversaries leading up to this one, most of which have gone by unnoticed, this one feels different. This one feels like it needs to be acknowledged, even if it is only in this blog. So here it is.

First, I want to say a big thank you to two groups of people. To our clients, thanks for trusting us to deliver what you need. Whether you’re a buyer bringing us in to work with your team or a participant in one of our workshops, you’ve given us your time, invited us into your business life, and believed in us.

To the people who have been part of the Turpin team, thanks for your brains, talent and very hard work. These people are Greg Owen-Boger, Sarah Stocker, Mary Clare Healy, Karen Ross, Milena Palandech, Jeanne Cotter, Anne Linehan, Lora Alejandro, and Seth Kannof. Turpin has been very lucky to have all of you.

I started Turpin in 1992 with some very strong ideas about what presentation and facilitation skills training should be and a whole lot of questions about what makes a business successful. Since then, with the help of others, we’ve answered many of those questions. I can also say that there are a few things we got right from the beginning.

From a business perspective:

  • Stay focused on what you do better than anyone else. The temptation to branch out into other types of training, into areas we know less about and feel less confident delivering, has always been present. We’ve resisted and are better off because of it.
  • It’s okay to turn down work. Especially if success feels uncertain or the potential client feels like a bad fit.

In the training room:

  • The worst thing you can do in the training room is waste time. Respect the learner. Adapt to their individual needs. Keep the goal in mind. Be flexible. Never condescend.
  • Training is not meant to be fun, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a good time in class. You will never hear a Turpin trainer say, “Okay everyone, let’s shift gears a little bit and have some fun!” The work is first and foremost. When learners realize that you’re not going to waste their time, you earn their respect. When that happens, they relax, open up, and the process becomes not just fruitful but enjoyable as well.

What’s coming in the next 20 years?

  • We will continue to help business presenters plan and deliver their Orderly Conversations.
  • As new technologies emerge, we will continue to find the best way to successfully blend face-to-face and remote learning.
  • This year we rolled out Find Your Focus Video. This service is built on what we learned developing our own online courses. While this is brand new for us, it doesn’t break the “stay focused” maxim I mentioned above. Our tag line says it best: “Find your focus. Be yourself. Only better. (and now on video).” Learn more about it here.

So Happy Anniversary, Turpin Communication, and thanks again to everyone who has made it happen.

by Dale Ludwig, President and Trainer at Turpin Communication