By: Alex Alifimoff, Stanford University 2015
Points of Information (often called POIs) in American Parliamentary Debate often seem supplementary, so they go unconsidered by the average novice debater. Yet, they’re actually one of the most important ways to remain in the debate when you aren’t speaking, and should never be taken lightly. This article won’t cover the best ways and places to ask questions, but will concentrate mainly on how and when one should respond to POIs.
What is a POI? When should it be used?
A Point of Information is basically a question (or statement) that is offered by a debater on the non-speaking team during her opponent’s speech. In more recent years, APDA has moved to using POIs almost completely for questions instead of making statements that clarify your own position. I would highly recommend that all novice debaters use their POIs for questions only.
Points of Information can be taken during any of the four member speeches (the first four speeches in the round) and cannot be offered during the two closing speeches (rebuttals). POIs can not be offered during the first and final minute of any speech.
How many POIs should I answer during each speech?
The average debater tends to take one to two Points of Information per speech. After several tournaments, you should have a relatively good idea of how long each speech will take you to complete before you give it. Try to estimate how many Points of Information you will need before you give your speech. It’s probably wise to not give more than three. If you are answering more than three points of information per speech, your speech should probably be longer.
How do I not take a point of information?
When a debater stands up to ask a POI, you can just wave them down (literally, just make a waving gesture towards the ground), or you can verbally tell them that you won’t be taking them at this time. This is all really personal choice, but try to pick a mechanism that doesn’t interrupt the flow of your speech (waving often works best!)
When should I take a Point of Information?
Debaters tend to ask POIs about recent parts of your speech. This means that you should never take a POI during a period in which you are unsure about the content of your speech! Only take POIs when you are very sure about the advocacy you are currently discussing in the speech!
Instead, try to take POIs at natural breaks during your speech, whether that is between points or during your switch from on-case to off-case. Many debaters tend to take one POI during the on-case and another during the off-case, but the decision about specifically when to take POIs is really personal choice.
How do I deal with POIs that I can’t answer?
Every debater eventually encounters that “uh oh” moment when he gets asked a question that he cannot answer. There are plenty of strategies for dealing with questions that you can’t easily answer, mostly dependent upon the type of question asked. If the question forces you to admit that there are unfavorable consequences of your advocacy, you might compare those unfavorable consequences to the positive consequences, or you might admit that the unfavorable consequences only exist in extremely specific circumstances. If someone asks you a hypothetical that uses your advocacy’s logic to arrive at an unfavorable position, simply point out that the question isn’t applicable to the issue at hand. You will likely learn specific strategies, but the best general strategy is to remain confident in your advocacy and calmly explain the shortcomings of the question. Don’t get flustered! Often, especially in front of less experienced judges, a good POI is far more damning because of the way a debater goes about answering it, instead of because the POI was answered incorrectly.
Hopefully these tips have helped you understand how you should deal with POIs when they come up during your speeches. Stay tuned for more articles from your Novice Mentor team!