Expert Interview

Brief Description

The Expert interview is ideal for presenting content and encourages subject matter experts to share knowledge in an informal, relaxed setting. With minimal preparation of participants, the expert interview can be initiated in a workshop where participants don't yet know each other or the organisers. The open layout encourages greater participation due to its informal nature, and is less intimidating than a panel discussion.

History

The expert interview as a knowledge sharing tool is described by Neill McKee (former Chief, PCIS, UNICEF Bangladesh) with Dr. Hermann Tillman and Dr. Maria Salas in their Visualization in Participatory Programs Manual (1993)

When to use

  • The beginning of a workshop/ group event
  • An alternative to a keynote or formal podium presentation.
  • A chance to weave ideas between participants and dig down for key issues.
  • A way to draw out stories from people without them having to do a lot of preparation.

How to use

Participants:

  • Facilitator/ Moderator
  • Up to 3 guests (subject matter experts).
  • General audience. Audience can be any size, but smaller sized audiences encourage participation.

Layout:
For a session with 3 experts, place in front of the audience, 4 chairs on one side (for expert panel) and 2 chairs on the other (for audience member with questions) in the shape of an inverted V. The audience sits in a semi circle in front of these chairs.

Process:is:
  • Session may run between 60-90 minutes.
  • The facilitator :
    • Sets the tone by clarifying the purpose of the session
    • ensure the audience is aware of the scope of the guests’ expertise
    • allows the audience to become experts should they want to answer a question
    • introduce and facilitate the question and answer process
    • request that audience members ask concise questions only, no lengthy preamble
    • captures the essence of answers on flipchart paper or cards which are then pinned on boards
  • Facilitator introduces the guests/ experts and invites questions from audience.
  • An audience member with a question walks up to the panel and sits on one of the 2 chairs. The next person with a question can sit on the other chair. This keeps the pace going and reduces pauses between questions from the audience.
  • Once the question is answered by one of the experts, the audience member gets off the chair and the next one waiting steps up to the first chair and so on.
  • If any audience member would like to answer a question or add to the expert's answers, he/she walks up to the panel and sits on the empty chair next to the experts and answers. This keeps the exchange fresh and allows interaction without creating a divide between the experts and the audience.
  • Facilitator captures major points on flipchart or cards as the session progresses so that the audience may view them.
  • To close the session, the facilitator thanks the guests/ experts and summarizes the points made using the flipchart/ cards.

Tips and Lessons Learnt

(add yours)
  • This is a great way to get subject matter experts to share their knowledge in a less traditional setting. So it is best to inform the expert of the process and the expectations.
  • Ideal for 2 -3 experts only, otherwise it becomes tedious
  • The extra chair next to the panel of experts gives the audience the message that anyone can be an expert by sharing their know-how. It takes pressure off the experts and also removes any hierarchical connotations.

Variation:

Chat Show

Examples & Stories

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Who can tell me more?

  • Meena Arivananthan (meena.arivananthan [at] gmail.com)

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Page Authors

  • Meena Arivananthan (Meena.Arivananthan [at] fao.org)