Dealing With Losing Subject Matter Experts

Posted January 11, 2021 in
Video Video
Good afternoon videographers,

I've been a bit of a ghost on this platform, but I'm hoping one of you or some of you would grant me your wisdom with a dilemma I am having.

I've been dealing with a heavy surge of losing subject matter experts before I even get them on camera. Most have stated they feel overwhelmed from simply reviewing the outlines I've sent them and bow out just before our scheduled time to film. It has been about three weeks of really digging in and trying to find people to be on camera and I am becoming exhausted.

Part of myself is wondering if I'M doing something wrong. 

Has anyone else fallen victim to this problem? How were you able to get out of this hole? How did you build a steady base of subject matter experts who you could rely on?
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Stephanie Baiocchi
Hey Jameson, I'm so glad you shared this because I'm sure you're not the only one struggling. I bet there are some other folks here who can share their experience but in the meantime I'd recommend checking out this recording of  Alex Winter 's talk on how to get the most out of your on-camera talent: (this helps with scripting, rehearsal, and more). 

Also, have you taken time to educate your SMEs on the process ahead of time, why creating this content is so valuable, etc. to get their buy in? If they're not on your level then that's definitely the first place to start. 

Finally, you may want to encourage your SEMs to watch  Liz Murphy 's talk on how to be confident on camera: 
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Jameson Killen
Thank you Stephanie for your reply,

I'll go back and watch Alex's recording again. I find that this video ahs helped in the past so it might help again. As for trying to convince potential SME's to watch Liz's video, it is really a toss of a coin.

I have been creating some videos internally to help potential SME's understand the process, and I have been referencing both Alex and Liz's videos and applying them to our format. I've noticed that they've helped a bit, but not enough to stop the bottlenecking issue of getting the SME's on the camera.

Our business is definitely moving in the right direction, it's just slow rolling. So thank you for your suggestions, I will take this into consideration, I greatly appreciate it! :)
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Stephanie Baiocchi
I hear ya! It's definitely a process. At my last company before IMPACT I was trying to get even just ONE person on video and my team was reluctant to even let me put their headshots on our website or in email signatures! It takes time to build that trust and show the value of what will come of creating these videos. One option may be to host a lunch (even virtually) where you watch Liz's talk together as a team and maybe even buy everyone lunch (Uber Eats gift cards?). This could get them all discussing takeaways and sharing their fears in a way that could create an even better team of SMEs!
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Jameson Killen
I will definitely look into ways to connect more with potential SME's I do believe there is a disconnect from my team and the people who we are trying to get on board as SMEs. Thank you again for your advice!
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Jessica Palmeri
Hi Jameson, I’m #NotAVideographer, but as soon as I read your post, I related to your struggle.

Prior to working at IMPACT, I worked for a small start-up that tried to "dip their toes" into video marketing using Wistia's soapbox platform to record 1:1 video messages for marketing emails.

While this was a directive straight from the owners of the company no one wanted to be on camera, and it was pulling teeth to get them to work on these projects.

Here's one strategy that had the best results:

I found out that it needs to be a personal ask. 

At the time, my co-workers were completely dismissive of my requests for help, so instead of asking for them to jump in on a video project, I scheduled a coffee chat.

I got to know them. I learned about what projects were on their plate, and I had a chance to describe what I was working on. When I built up the personal relationship first, getting help was much easier.

Eventually, I found one go-to co-worker who was willing to give it a try. 

And after she became a rockstar, other co-workers saw her success and were willing to give it a try as well. 

It wasn't the most direct path, but it helped me build trust with my SMEs and produce video content at an organization that was resistant to video. 
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Jameson Killen
Hi Jessica, Thank you for taking time out of your day to provide some suggestions!

Throughout my journey in gathering SME's I have found a small group of SME's that I can rely on, but recently they've been busy or unable to do the video due to other conflicts. I've been trying to grow this pool of SME's and that's where I am struggling.

I was hoping the word of mouth would have kicked in by now. Was there anything you were doing to help your Rockstar's coworkers hear or see the content they were in? 
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Jessica Palmeri
Fortunately (or sometimes unfortunately 😂 ) when you work for a small SaaS start-up, everyone has a good gauge of what everyone else is working on. 

When I started producing video content that drove conversion with my rockstar, the other team members quickly found out about it. 

But sharing examples of interviews with other coworkers who might be a good fit for your projects could help them see more of how it works. 
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Jolie Higazi
Hey Jameson, I'm also not a videographer, but I've worked with content managers who have some of the same struggles in nailing down SMEs for interviews for blog content. 

My best piece of advice is to be fluid and be creative — each one of your SMEs may need a slightly different approach when working with you. 

On the content side, for instance, some SMEs might prefer a live interview, some want an outline in advance, some want to be the one creating the original outline, some send a video of them brainstorming about the topic -- the options are endless.

If they're overwhelmed looking over an outline you sent them, maybe set up a casual meeting to look it over together. 

Dig into why they're overwhelmed-- Maybe they aren't sure what they should even be looking for, maybe they're nervous they won't remember it all, maybe they have other ideas about it but don't know how to express it or if you're open to that feedback. Who knows! 

I think the key is to just try to get your foot in the door to talk with them, build some rapport and trust, and meet them where they're at. 

Good luck!
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Jameson Killen
Thank you Joli for your suggestions and advice.

One thing I've noticed is that once a potential SME becomes scared, nervous or overwhelmed, it becomes more of a challenge to learn from them why they are wanting to not be a SME.

Do you have any examples where you where talking to an SME and they suddenly bowed out? How were you able to get them to tell you the reasons for not wanting to contribute? Or better yet, how were you able to reel them back in?
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Jolie Higazi
During my time as a content manager years back, I do remember some interviews falling through and not panning out. I think the biggest thing in my time was purely time constraints/them not seeing the value of the interview though, not a fear or nervousness on their part which it sounds like you're seeing.

I think this is where relationships are key. If you're able to have a casual watercooler conversation with them about what's happening in their work world that they're working on, you might find that there's other factors at play (workload, fear of being on camera, not seeing the value, etc). 

One thing that sounds like an opportunity for you is to hone in on how to alleviate their fears/overwhelm in the first place so you don't end up in a position where you need to reel them back in.

This might mean going slower with them at first, but sounds like it could help in the long run. Of course, all easier said than done!
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Lindsey Auten
Devon McCarty   do you have any incite on this to share?
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Devon McCarty
Hey Jameson, sorry to hear you're struggling with SME's bailing. 

I know that's frustrating and throws off your production schedule, which personally, is the worst thing ever. 

In my experience, a large part of filming is salesmanship. This specifically means that leading up to, during, and after a shoot, I'm constantly building up my SME's. 

Things I constantly say with sincerity

Before the Shoot
  • I can't wait to work on this project with you!
  • Oh man, you're perfect for this one! 
  • It's amazing how well you understand this!

During the Shoot
  • (*the second they finish a good take*) Hell yeah! Hey your kicking ass right now, let's keep going!
  • Your eye contact was fantastic on that one!
  • I learned a lot on that one! Thanks! 

After the Shoot
  • This video is going to be so helpful to other people!
  • I can't wait to get started on these
  • How'd that feel? You looked really comfortable 

Words of affirmation are a big part of helping someone get their head in the right space. Before filming with you, the majority of your SME's are thinking about all the reasons that they aren't smart enough or good enough or about what their teammates might think.

But they ARE good enough. They know more about the subject than anyone else. They're the friggin' experts!

Remind them of that!

A few tricks to help get them comfortable: 
  • Hold Internal Training Sessions (get buy-in from your leadership on this one). 

How often do you have your gear set up so people can just get used to it? Video production is new, exciting, and sometimes scary for a lot of folks. So by demystifying it (I'll even take people on a walk-through of all my equipment and explain some of the post-production) you can highlight how B-Roll works and reinforce your skills as an editor. 

  • Let them practice some camera work, ahead of time, by teaching them to download and use GoVideo (if they haven't already) just so they can get used to hearing and seeing themselves. Give them some scripts to work on or let them write their own and practice their delivery. 

  • Keep your filming room cold. They're going to be uncomfortable the second they get there. Keeping it cold can help. 

  • Show some other examples of what you're trying to do and how it's helpful to customers and employees. If you have someone else in the company that's great on camera, show them some examples so they can get some inspiration.

  • Play with the "style" of the shot. Maybe they aren't ready to look straight into the lens of the camera and deliver world-class content. No big deal. Let them train a bit by moving the camera off-center a bit, then have them talk to YOU and not the Lens. Sure you might lose some eye contact, but you're trying to build your bench of SME's and sometimes, that takes time and a bit of training. 

Best of luck to you as you continue to produce awesome video content. Let me know if you get any progression and what works for your SME's! 


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