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subject matter experts relationship

This is part two of the series on working with subject matter experts when building e-learning courses. In the previous post, we looked at how to set expectations and some simple project management tips. I also shared a link to the free e-book, Essential Guide to Working with Subject Matter Experts.

Today, we’ll look at what it takes to build a good working relationship with your subject matter experts. I always take a short term and long term view. In the short term, I want to make sure that the project moves forward successfully. And the subject matter expert plays a critical role.

In the long term, it’s all about networking and building relationship within the organization. The more you know and the more people you know, the more valuable you’ll be to the organization. And you never know when you’ll need that person’s help on future projects. A good relationship proves valuable.

subject matter experts are your friends

When asked about working with subject matter experts, here’s what your fellow e-learning developers shared:

  • They are called subject matter expert for a reason – don’t be patronizing because without them we wouldn’t be doing this.
  • Be respectful of their time, especially if they’re not working on the project and only providing assistance.
  • Help them save time. You can do this by reducing their workload. Do some research and pre-work that helps them not have to provide all of the content.
  • Show that you care. They won’t care what you know until they know that you care.
  • Be nice. If that doesn’t work, then bribe with chocolate!
  • Make them feel important. They tend to have big egos. [Tom’s note: not all of them suffer from big egos unless you’re working with doctors and lawyers. 🙂 ]
  • The subject matter experts have a lot of knowledge to impart. They will be keen to ensure that the students have access to that.
  • Keep a poker face when you hear things you do not like or cannot do. Just listen and record. You can fix things later.
  • We may use the same words but they don’t always mean the same things. Make sure that terminology is understood by both developer and subject matter expert.
  • Define your role to them in concise, clear terms so it is less threatening for them (especially when it is time to cut out “nice to know info”).
  • Be ready for them not to recognize your skill set.
  • Praise, praise and more praise for their cooperation, input, and feedback.
  • Get their buy-in at every stage of the process (if they’re involved in that level of detail).
  • Face to face is better than an email sometimes.
  •  This is a different style of learning.
  • Let their managers know how much they’re contributing.

What do you do to manage the relationship with your subject matter experts?


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One response to “How to Build a Great Relationship with Your Subject Matter Experts”

February 16th, 2017

Hey, great suggestions, Tom!


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