How to Turn Subject Matter Experts into Trainers

As a Trainer Coordinator, I helped several shy individuals become confident trainers in a way that was non-threatening.

panels as a step into public speaking

During my 33-year career at UCLA, I served as a Training Coordinator for nearly 13 years. The training was designed to help Research Administrators navigate through the red tape that accompanies funding for research.

As a Training Coordinator, I loved and respected my subject matter experts (SMEs. ) Without them, I could not create training materials. But when it came to TEACHING the material in a classroom, I had some challenges. Most people are terrified of speaking – would rather die than do it. So how do I get my SMEs to transition from shy deskbound workers to trainers that share their knowledge with confidence to a classroom of students?

I drew upon my knowledge of what causes a speaker to be engaging – a speaker who knows their material and cares about it. I noted with the SMEs that once I got them talking about what they were experts about, they were articulate and comfortable. In fact, it was an occasional challenge to shut them up! But ask them to stand up in front of a group? “No way, Jose, Linnaea” they would say to me.

Panels of Experts

How did I work around this? I came up with an approach that enables the SMEs to participate in the classroom in a way that was comfortable for them. I created panels of experts. I would have 3-5 experts on the topic of the class sit at a table and speak up when asked a question or wanting to clarify further information being presented by the instructor. It worked like a charm. The experts would talk openly and freely. And before long they became so comfortable sharing what they know that it was a very small stretch to stand behind the lectern and talk. They always surprised themselves when they made that leap into public speaking .. Always, always, they were SO appreciative of my gentle coaching and confidence in the knowledge that people can talk about what they know.

If you are in the position to needing experts to speak to a group because no one else has that knowledge, try putting them on a panel. 90% of the time they do just fine when talking what they know.  


Quotes about public speaking tees at Neatees

Warren Buffet Public Speaking Quote

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