Key takeaways in this post:

  • Be flexible. Try to be understanding if the person you want to talk to is busy. Find a time that works for both of you.
  • Use time wisely. If you don’t have much time, plan ahead and ask the most important questions first.
  • Ask good questions. Learn about the person before you talk to them. Ask questions that make them think.
  • Practice makes perfect. The more you do SME interviews, the better you get at it. So, keep practicing.

Here at WG Content, interviewing subject matter experts (SMEs) is a big part of our job. And trust us — even with years of experience, we still run into a few snags along the way. Whether you’re a rookie interviewer or a seasoned Barbara Walters-type, you’ll face challenges during SME interviews. If you’re feeling stressed or intimidated by an upcoming interview, relax and remember that the SME is a person, too.
Sure, you may hit bumps along the way, but it won’t be the end of the world. With practice, preparation and patience, you’ll find that you can have a successful interview no matter what obstacles you hit.

SME interviews are crucial to creating quality content. They involve talking to experts in a particular field to gather information, insights, and quotes to enhance your content.

SME interviews provide valuable first-hand knowledge and expertise you can’t find elsewhere. They also give the content a human touch, making it more relatable and engaging.

Now that you know what SME interviews are, here are four common challenges and how to tackle them.

#1. Getting time on the calendar

Be flexible. Getting on the SME’s calendar between meetings, conferences and clinic time can be challenging.

You may have to adjust your schedule to make an early morning or evening interview time. Chances are this won’t happen often, but bending a bit on your schedule can help you get the details you need to write accurate, informative content.

You may also need to be flexible about how you interview the SME. For example, you can send questions via email and allow the SME to respond in writing. This method can help the SME provide thoughtful, detailed answers without having to coordinate schedules.

Once you get on the SME’s calendar, you may only have 30 minutes (sometimes less) to conduct your interview. To make sure you get the information you need, try to:

  • Prepare your questions ahead of time.
  • Prioritize questions that cover crucial details you need to complete the assignment.
  • Ask the SME how to follow up with more questions or clarifications if you run out of time.

Part of a successful SME interview is asking the right interview questions. This can take practice, so don’t worry if it takes a few interviews to get it right. The bottom line is that you’ll want to try and get the most out of your time with the SME.

Do your research

Read up on the SME and the subject you’ll discuss. You don’t have to be the expert (that’s what the SME is for!).

But having background knowledge can help you form more thoughtful questions.

Weave in a few open ended questions

Allow SMEs time to talk generally. You can follow up with questions that hone in on the details. Giving the SME room to elaborate may open doors to interesting nuggets of information.

For example:

  • Ask for the SME’s philosophy about treatment or their approach to patient care.
  • Leave time at the end for a general question like, “Is there anything else you want to highlight?”

Ask about differentiators

If you’re working on marketing content, it’s crucial to find the details that will set your organization apart from others. Ask the SME about innovative treatments or tests that may not be widely available. You can also ask them how their team cares for patients. It may differ from the traditional approach.

Avoid one-word answers

Don’t take “yes” or “no” for an answer. If possible, try to follow up with questions that can draw out more information. Remember, your time with the SME should be well-spent, so try to get the most information you can

One of the biggest challenges with interviewing SMEs is understanding their technical terminology. As the writer and marketer, you may need to translate the interview into more patient-friendly language.

To do this, you have to understand what the SME is talking about. If you find your head is swimming during an interview, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification.

Chances are, the SME understands you’re not an expert on the topic and won’t mind adding more detail. You could also try phrasing the request as, “How would you explain this to a patient you’re meeting for the first time?”

You can also record the interview. Here are several services that allow you to record a phone call or conference:

  • Dialpad
  • Free Conference Call
  • TapeACall

If the interview is in person, you can use a recording app on your phone.

Once you have a recording, you can listen to the interview to double-check a fact or term the SME used.

If you’re recovering from an interview that didn’t go so well, don’t worry! The more interviews you do, the easier it will be to overcome challenges and get the information you need.

After a while, interviewing SMEs will feel like second nature. WG Content is here to help if you need it.

Do you have any advice, tips or tricks for conducting a successful SME interview? Send us an email!

SME interviews are essential for creating accurate and informative content on complex topics that require expert knowledge.

To prepare for an SME interview, you should take the following steps:

  • Research the topic beforehand.
  • Create a list of specific questions.
  • Be prepared to take notes or record the conversation.

Understand the topic and listen actively to the SME’s responses. Use open-ended questions to encourage in-depth responses.

The number of SMEs you need to interview may vary depending on the complexity of the topic and the amount of information needed.

Show genuine interest in their expertise. Ask follow-up questions to get more details on a topic. Remember to respect their time and thank them for their insights.

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