Are you planning a subject matter conference …but want subject matter experts to steer clear of boring PowerPoints? Many professionals do not take kindly to peer feedback. Use these top 5 tips to keep the lines of communication open.

In some organizations, subject matter experts react to input on their presentations. “I am a professional. I know my topic inside and out. Why are you telling me what to do?”

Insightful feedback is seen as heavy handed. Objective viewpoints are interpreted as directive or even punitive. If you’re putting on the conference and looking for the biggest ROI possible, use these 7 tips to give feedback and engage experts instead of alienating them.

In these times, more organizations are looking for value and return on investment for meetings. That’s why…it’s important to ask facilitative and open-ended questions.

1. What’s The Key Idea Here?
Many subject matter experts have decades of research under their belts. They know more about their slice of the world than you or I will ever know.

So, it stands to reason that they might get carried away before the audience understands the key message.

If this could be happening in your conference, ask experts to explain it to you first. Act stupid. Act as if you don’t have any expert knowledge. Push them to spell things out in simple terms.

Hint: most experts hate this. But if you push now, you’ll get better results later.

2. What Do You Want People To Do?
In a lot of conferences, meetings and gatherings, subject matter experts give presentations. Often these data-dense dissertations lead to one result: bug-eyed and overwhelmed participants.

For every bit of valuable research, the question must be asked. “What do you want people to do with this information?” For most subject matter experts, this action will be implicit. They are likely to tell you as one gentleman in my workshop did, “It’s obvious! Why should I spell it out? Any idiot can see what to do.”

If you’re encountering responses like this, take a deep breath. Explain with patience that it is obvious to the expert. And the clarity is not so crystal clear to the novice. To get their message across, encourage your experts to spell out precise actions.

3. Ask More Than Answer
Meeting in person or virtually is a powerful opportunity. But it’s not just a chance to ‘tell, tell, tell.’ Use the time to ask questions. Ask challenging questions to provoke thinking and challenge the status quo.

While many experts are happy to ask questions…they often feel compelled to answer them. This is not essential. Ask more questions than you answer. Keep challenging the audience to get involved in the discussion.

Also, encourage the audience to ask questions. Remind people that ‘no question is stupid.’ Many participants are afraid to look foolish in front of a large group. A skilled expert knows how to open up the room so everyone feels safe to ask questions.

4. How Can We Amplify?
Many experts focus exclusively on the conference presentation and audience. They aren’t thinking about what participants need to take back to their regions to make an impact.

Encourage experts to think with you and the conference planners. Ask directly, “How can we amplify your message in the regions?” Experts often have ideas and tools to share to make this do-able.

5. How Can We Show and Tell?
People think differently and communicate differently depending on their learning preference. Visual learners prefer to see maps, pictures and overviews. Auditory learners prefer to discuss ideas. Kinesthetic learners like to see a big picture first, and then get involved with hands-on activities.

Encourage subject matter experts to stretch their communication style. Emphasize that every type of learner needs to see, hear and get engaged with the information. If your experts are strongly rooted in a singular presentation style, share data to open up the conversation. Scientific data is an objective source. Use research data to guide an objective and non-judgmental discussion.

Yes, you can give feedback to people who are subject matter experts. Plan presentation impact to achieve top results for your conference. With these 5 tips, everyone will be on track for great results.

Author's Bio: 

Milly Sonneman is a recognized expert in visual language. She is the co-director of Presentation Storyboarding, a leading presentation training firm, and author of the popular guides: Beyond Words and Rainmaker Stories available on Amazon. Milly helps business professionals give winning presentations, through Email Marketing skills trainings at Presentation Storyboarding. You can find out more about our courses or contact Milly through our website at: