University of Wisconsin Green Bay
Communication Department

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Hall of Shame

Exactly what not to do

The "Hall of Shame" documents incidents in which key communication principles were violated. The purpose of this page is two-fold:  1) To provide examples of what to avoid, and 2) to instruct students about key communication principles that are critical for any communicator’s long-term success. The focus is on the incident, not the student(s). For that reason, I have not included any names. We all make mistakes and we can all learn from those miscalculations.

  • A group in a capstone course presented their final press conference regarding a simulated crisis. During the press conference it was extremely difficult to ascertain any core message the team wanted to convey. After the simulation was over, a professor asked the team: “What was the core message you were trying to convey?” The spokesperson’s response: “well, uh uh ah, uh”. Then he started fumbling around with his notes and said “well we have it here someplace.” He turned to a teammate who was furiously looking through his notes as well. The professor probed further: “In other words, what is the headline you want me to write as a reporter?” And he couldn’t answer this simple question either. Lesson learned: the core message should be so central to your press conference that you can articulate it at a moments notice. This is the “elevator talk” that every communicator should have available for any situation.

  • A group member was elected to act as spokesperson during a simulated crisis involving a professional sports team. There were rumors of fan protests and unruly behavior if a certain player (wearing #4) took the field. The spokesperson repeatedly used the term “terrorists” to describe potential protestors during the press conference.  When questioned about the language choices, it became clear that the group members had not agreed to use this particular term.

    A group member presented facts during a case presentation that were not accurate. When confronted with contradictory evidence during the cross-examination period, the student  attacked the credibility of two professors and refused to back down from the original claims. Despite given the opportunity to retract statements, the student continued to make the incorrect assertions and then complained about "being attacked."

    • In the Interviewing class, students routinely discussed each other's strengths and areas of improvement during performance appraisal exercises.  One student quickly dismissed an improvement  idea by saying "I already knew that and I can't change it." What opportunity did this student miss? 
      One group, part of a class of 80 students, had extensive training on the SMCR model and proper channel selection. They chose to turn in their final group paper (30 + pages) by e-mailing an attachment to the professor. What principle did they violate?

  • One group was given a case involving communication problems at a paper mill. One recommendation involved transmitting daily briefings over a public address speaker system. What principle did they violate?

  • One student repeatedly fell asleep during a discussion class despite the professor’s private warning. What principle did he violate?

During a presentation in the Information Technology class, the presenter snapped his fingers as a way to signal his group member to change slides. The class and professors found this funny the first time but found it less so after it repeatedly happened. What principle did this student violate?


Listed below is some advice from former communications students who have successfully trained their neural pathways.

"Taking a Phil class will definitely raise your stress levels.  However, once the class is over, you will realize that it was all worth it."   -Jerome Allen

"Do not concern yourself with what you believe Phil is "looking for" as the "right answer," rather construct a unique solution to the problem and develop a strong line of rationale and you will succeed beyond measure" -Marcus Reitz

"GO TO CLASS!!!  No matter how many notes you print off the website, you will never get all the information!, read, read!  If you don't read, the multiple choice questions in the exams are going to kick your butt!" -Angela Stangel