How to Hold an Interview with SMEs

The ability to work with SMEs efficiently makes a huge difference in technical writing. A lot of things like depth, clarity, and precision of descriptions in user manuals depend on how well you communicate your requests to an SME and how successful you are at interpreting and follow-up questions.

Today, we will try to come up with a perfect scenario of tech writer/SME communication. It is clear that both parties are equally responsible for the outcome, but taking what you can into your own hands and fixing up the process is a good choice.

How to Ask the Right Questions

To make talking to an SME more efficient, you need to be prepared. Feel free to use these tips to plan out your best SME interview yet:

  • Eye contact (no staring though!)
  • Subtle leaning forward
  • Relaxed pose — no crossing hands/legs
  • Brief affirmations (‘I see’, ‘sure’, ‘thank you’) head nods
  • Paraphrasing sentences in response to show you understand
  • Etc.

6. Talk over the next steps — whether another meeting should be held or what will be the most convenient way for you to reach out to them if you have questions about the current material later.

7. Thank your SME! You both have done a great job!


What I’ve written here might sound like a lot. But, in reality, we are all human beings and things do not go according to plan sometimes. Do not let this discourage you. Sharpen your communication skills, pay attention to what’s working, and keep digging in this direction — you will end up with your own patented toolset of how to communicate with SMEs to get awesome results. Thinking that being a technical writer means secluding yourself with a PC and no communication is wrong. Establishing great professional relationships with other teams and SMEs plays a huge part in successful technical communication, too!

Good luck with your technical writing!
ClickHelp Team
Author, host and deliver documentation across platforms and devices


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