Subject Matter Expert – Friend or Foe?

Subject Matter Expert at workA vast majority of employees in high-tech companies are Subject Matter Experts. In the training world they are known as ‘SMEs” (rhymes with please). They are engineering and technical staff with a deep, hard-won, specialist knowledge of one aspect of technology. Without SMEs there would be no high-tech. They are, for many companies, “the noble sinews of our power” (as Shakespeare’s Henry V termed the soldiers he marshaled at Agincourt). They are Archilochus’s quintessential Hedgehog’s who know one big thing better than anyone else.

The challenge for the communications professional is to:

a) Get them to summarize their vast body of knowledge into a sound-bite or elevator pitch which can be included with the data from a dozen other Hedgehog’s into a few remarks by the CEO.

b) Encourage them to talk to each other and share their specialist views of the world with colleagues in different disciplines. Only connect. Develop synergies between them.

One approach to these tasks is discussed in a useful article by Liz Ryan in the September 16 Business Week. She counsels that the communications professional with the ear of the CEO can synthesize the input of multiple SMEs and, by encouraging communication between them, “create an informal in-house council of thought leaders”.

In career terms the person who functions as the nexus must be sure to give full credit to everyone who contributes.

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Some very practical advice on recording (literally!) SMEs presentations and demos from blogger/podcaster Tom Johnson.

I like the new picture, Ian!

A good discussion on this topic in LinkedIn Answers.

Andrew Lightheart has some great advice about how SME’s should use PowerPoint in technical presentations.

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