It takes a lot to be a subject matter expert. That point is worth repeating –it takes a lot to be a subject matter expert. In a time where millions are picking up topics and writing articles online, it’s important to know the difference between someone who knows the presentation of the material and someone who actually knows the material. In any career, you have to truly know the material to be an expert in your field.

Presenting the subject matter effectively is important, but what about when people start asking questions? Can you explain the subject with confidence to someone who doesn’t understand? How much do you truly understand? Being a subject matter expert means that you are actually an authority with a deep understanding of a particular topic, process, function, technology, machine, material or type of equipment. These people are sought after for their in depth knowledge of those specific topics because they are able to evaluate, identify, solve problems and tackle challenges associated with their subject.

Many times people assume they are a subject matter expert if they are working a certain position. Other times, people want to know what they can do to become a subject matter expert. The answer is time and experience. You can’t be an expert on something without those two things. While subject matter experts exist in all different aspects of business, they aren’t developed overnight. These are people who have developed their expertise over long periods of time. Let’s take a car mechanic for instance. On the one hand, we have someone who has gone through trade school, attended all necessary trainings and certifications and has been in the job for two years. On the other hand, we have a shop owner who worked as a mechanic for 15 years before owning their own shop. This person has worked with a variety of people, in a variety of settings, from a variety of perspectives and kept up with all trainings and new technologies for mechanics in their field up until present day. While the first is very knowledgeable and good at their job, the second is an expert.

Time, experience, perspective and surmounted obstacles go a long way in making someone an expert in their field.

It’s a development of experience and an immersion in that experience over a period of time.  Many have been through most types of challenges associated with their topic of expertise while keeping up on the latest knowledge and trends in their field.  The thing about someone with this experience is that they can make it look easy. They can break things down into a conversation or presentation to explain to others. To be a subject matter expert, you have to know your material and not just the presentation.

Can you answer any questions or solve any issues that come up surrounding your presentation? Can you explain these processes further and in more detail for those that don’t understand? Can you do so confidently and effectively? That’s what makes a subject matter expert. Take the time to learn more, to anticipate the questions and be sure that you have clear answers. Know the material.

What do you think is the difference between knowing the presentation and knowing the material? What makes a subject matter expert? Comment below!