ATD Blog

Public Speaking Woes: Help your SMEs and LATs Succeed

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Who do you know that needs help with public speaking? Is there a subject matter expert who delivers technical or business function training in your organization, or a “leader as teacher” in your organization who could use some practice and advice before they deliver their next leadership program?

A subject matter expert (SME) is a term used to describe a person who has special in-depth knowledge or skills in a particular area or topic. They often bring real-world examples, best practices, and tricks of the trade that will positively impact business outcomes. They are the go-to resources, who help resolve complex issues. And yet what if that same SME understands industry best practices, but can’t effectively communicate those insights to help improve business? Or worse, what if they talk in a monotone, are frozen without gestures, and are more effective than Ambien at putting audiences to sleep? Can you really let them present to an internal or external audience?

A “leader as teacher” (LAT) is a term used to describe leaders who model and teach leadership in the workplace. A 2013 Leaders as Teachers Study of the Conference Board Council found 90 percent of responders reported using a LAT approach for in-house leadership development programs. These programs can be very effective. But what if a leader’s presentation skills are poor? What if they are long-winded, boastful, or dull? How effective will they be at strengthening organizational culture?

Today more and more organizations are depending on their own internal experts to deliver training or presentations. This is a cost effective strategy as long as it is done well. What organizations aren’t realizing is that presentation skills are just as important as the information being presented. Presenting clearly and effectively is a key skill to get knowledge or a message across, and today, presentation skills are required in almost every field. Whether or not a presentation achieves its desired outcome can be affected by the skills of the speaker.


As talent development professionals it is our responsibility to prepare our SMEs and LATs for success. We need to help them build the necessary confidence and skills. Setting them up to present at an optimum time—not after lunch, for instance—can help. One-on-one coaching can also help. However, it is often difficult to give feedback to colleagues or leaders about their presentation skills. One suggestion is to use the ATD Presentation Skills Certificate program. In this program, participants are introduced to tools, tips, and techniques to better prepare themselves to present. They are given suggestions to manage their environment for success, rehearse effectively, and even how to use notes. This certificate program is exceptionally personal. Through feedback they will be able to identify poor speaking habits, how to differentiate their message, and specific behaviors to address anxiety.

It is important to step in front of an audience with your best foot forward. Empower your LATs and SMEs with ATD’s Presentation Skills Certificate program.

About the Author

Donna Steffey is an international trainer, author, adjunct faculty at both Lake Forest Graduate School and DeVry University, and sought-after speaker who helps organizations achieve their desired business results. Donna incorporates her 20 years of management experience to educate, inspire, and coach. It takes the right blend of information, introspection and humor to cause people to look at themselves and change. Global organizations such as Marriott International, Barclaycard-UK, XIBI-China, Tumine Center-Africa, and the Royal Australian Air Force, have found that after Donna's workshops people were more self directed, customer service driven and mindful of their team participation. Donna combines learning with fun and applies her master's degree and life experiences to professional and real world situations. Your participants will be motivated to hit their performance improvement targets and your training will be a success!

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