Points of information or POIs as debaters debating the World Schools Debating format got to know them, are often perceived as having a minor impact on the debate, and hence dealt with as one of least important parts within the debate itself. This section will firstly refute this common misconception by explaining what really POIs are and why we need high quality POIs within the debate, secondly, it is going to deal with the question of how to make and answer
"Excuse Me, Madam ..."
Points of Information
PROJECT VIDEO: Slovakian debate trainer Matúš Huba speaks on Points of Information at WSDA 2013
What Are POIs and Why Are They Important
POIs are a very powerful strategic tool that you as a debater can use within the course of the debate. It keeps the debate dynamic, by and all debaters engaged throughout speeches. Main reason why we use POIs is to challenge the debater who is delivering his speech at the moment we ask the POI. On the other hand, as a debater answering the POI, you have a unique opportunity to show the judge that you are in control of your speech and that your case is going to withstand any pressure the opposing team is capable of creating.
The beneficiary of POIs might be both the team of the debater who is having a speech at the moment and the team of the debater who is asking the POI. The debaters asking POIs should aim for POIs that are going to discontinue the case of the opposing team in any way or POIs that are going to throw debater off his speech by asking a highly challenging POI. By asking POIs, you´re also showing judges that you remain active in the debate for the whole time. You can find more detailed description that attempts to offer guidance in this question in the “how” part of this text. The debater that is asked a POI has an unique opportunity to show that he is confident of the case his team has built and also has the opportunity to advance it through the answer given to the opposing team.
How to Make POIs
POIs are, as was previously mentioned strategic points that can help you gain an advantage (however, merely the advantage, very scarcely the win) in the debate.
Firstly, the text will deal with the question of how to make POIs. This part might be well known to more advanced debaters, however it is essential for the debaters beginning to debate in the WSDC format. POIs are made by rising from the chair and asking for a permission to ask the POI by either one of the phrases: “On that point madam/sir.” or simply “Point of Information Madam/Sir.” It is very important to keep up the excellence
How to Answer POIs
When answering POIs, it is your choice when and who´s POI to answer. When you do not want to take a POI, simply wave the debaters standing to ask POIs down. You do not have to say “Thank you” or any other phrase every time somebody asks a POI. (Almost no judges consider this necessary and it takes up the time from your speech and disturbs its flow.) The answer to the POI should be at first short. You simply do not want to talk much about what the opposing teams wants you to talk about. Do not try to complicate the answer since it is usually indicative of the lack of the understanding you have towards the question that you´ve been asked.
When you´re answering the POI, you have an opportunity to think about phrases that might buy you some time to answer the question you´ve been asked. This can be easily done by “Thank you very much for you question, I´m very happy you asked it!” or any other acceptation phrase. If you decide to postpone your answer because you´re going to talk about the question within the structure of your case/rebuttal, you HAVE to answer it. In cases like these, judges become very vigilant about the answer and if you do not answer the POI like you promised, the asking debater will make sure to point it out to judges.
The best tactics of answering the POI is to get some benefit from it for your team. Try to incorporate the POI into you own case. (e.g. Q: Isn´t the ban on alcohol cause riots and social unrest? A: No, on contrary, it is going to cause decline because……moreover, it will result in->continue with your case. Try to minimize the distraction from the line of argumentation you were leading and keep judges focused on your case.)
Who Should Ask POIs and Who Should We Take Them From
Every single debater in the team should rise to attempt to ask the POI at least two times per speech of a debater from an opposing team. The most active debaters should be ones that are not delivering the consecutive speech. They should also try to prepare POIs for the debater that is going to speak right after the speaker currently at the speaker´s table, to minimize any distraction. It is strategically wise to share strong
When Should We Ask and Take POIs
These two questions are the hardest ones to answer, mainly because the answer to them is highly subjective in both cases. This section will make a few suggestions and mainly warnings when not to ask and take them.
The space for asking POIs is between the end of first minute and beginning of the eight minute of the speech. These two minutes, one at the beginning and one at the end of the constructive speeches (We do not ask POIs in the course of a reply speech!) are protected and it is not allowed to ask any POIs. The best time to rise to ask the POI is simply whenever there is a
POIs. This section will also show you who should be involved in a POI that has been made in the debate, and when should the POI arrive to the speaker and when is the strategically most appropriate time to take one. In the end, the text will also look at some useful dos and don’ts of a WSDC POIs’ world. (I would also like to apologise to all grammar-sensitive debaters for using POIs abbreviation instead of more grammatically correct PsOI one, however I decided to adhere to the former since it has been widely used across the debate community.)
of one´s manner. A debater that will approach the speaker rudely (e.g. “Hey you!”) runs a high risk of getting his points deducted by judges. The speaker must take your POI before you ask it! You cannot ask the POI without the speaker acknowledging and allowing your question.
The POI should be short and to the point, relevant to the debate. If you go for long and elaborate question, you´re running a risk of giving the speaker too much time to think about the answer and build a good response, hence decreasing the strategic value of your POI. POIs should mainly be challenging to answer. Do not fall for a very tempting, but strategically useless questions that are just rephrased argument from your case. This will rarely stagger the speaker, and he will simply reply by the prepared refute to your arguments. Try to look for logical discrepancies within the speeches and make speaker reconsider what they´ve just said.
When asking POIs in the form of the question, do not use closed (YES/NO) questions since they offer the speaker the easy way out by simply replying by one or two sentences. Open questions are also not the most strategic ones, mainly because they offer the speaker too much space to manoeuvre out of the question you might have intended him to answer, or at least to stall until he/she comes up with the suitable one. The best option is to go for so called optional question. These are the questions that are hybrids of open and closed questions and offer the debater asking the POI a space to pre-frame the answer he wants to hear and keep the control of the question asked. The optional questions are the ones asking the speaker to compare, value, or choose out of two options the asking debater offers. (“Do you think that X or Y is going to be more beneficiary?”)
POIs within the team and hence making sure that the such POIs get answered regardless of which debater will be picked by speaker to ask the question. On occasion, it is good to rise on the POI in unison, when the opposing team makes a considerable mistake in their case. This will alert judges to the important place within the debate your team wants to point out, even if you don´t get picked to ask the POI.
With the teams that are not well known, POIs may serve as initial evaluations of speakers within the team. With these teams, it is wise to try to pick all the debaters across the course of the debate, to evaluate the members of the opposing team. With the teams you are familiar with, you can either pick their strong speakers, who are most likely to pose challenging POIs, in case you´re confident with your case or you can pick less experienced speakers that have a lesser potential to make any significant damage with their POI. (That is, of course unless they share identical POIs within the team.)
PROJECT VIDEO: Slovenian world-class debater Filip Dobranic gives his own set of lessons on Points of Information at WSDA 2013
natural pause in the speech that´s being delivered, since the likelihood of the speaker accepting one is very high at that point. However, you should rise for a POI whenever you feel that you have a strong point to make. The only rule to follow is that you should not spam the speaker with making POIs every 5 seconds or so. You are not going to be taken and the judge might discipline you for doing it. The acceptable time delay between individuals rising for a POI is usually +/- 30 seconds.
The optimal number of POIs to take is two within the course of the speech. Maximum number of POIs tolerated without any point deduction is three, however, it is not a very good strategy to accept so many POIs as it might indicate that your own speech is not as rich on arguments that might fill up the speaking time.
The best moment to take the POI is whenever you feel the most confident taking it. This moment is usually after you´ve finished explaining one part of your case, before you move to another. Do not take a POI in the middle of any explanation or analysis you are doing. This would interrupt the flow of you speech and distract both you and judges from an important and often key content being presented.
"DO"s and "DON´T"s of POIs
To conclude this section, we´ll look at some of the Dos and Don´ts that might come handy when you are about to make or take POIs. (Please apologize a mild randomness of this section. I tried to make put these point in some order, but it seems that I haven´t succeeded after all.)
DON´T ask follow up questions. It is not permitted, as you´re granted only one question to ask. Also, as a debater delivering the speech, you have a full right not to answer the follow up question.
DON´T ask two-part questions. The speaker has the full right only to answer one part since you as the one who´s asking have only right to ask make one POI. The time you spend on asking the second part, will be used by the speaker to think of the best answer for your first question, hence rendering your POI ineffective.
DON´T ask POIs just for the sake of asking POIs. Make sure that the POI you ask is challenging enough for the speaker to answer. POIs that are too easy to answer don´t serve your cause and might even end up to be damaging for you.
DON´T be rude. This might seem like a very obvious don’t, but it is based on multiple speakers being the exact opposite. The power of your POI is much greater when you don´t need to be rude to cause a big impact. Also it´s good to realize that when you lose rudeness and cocky behaviour, it does not mean that you stop being a dynamic speaker!
DO prepare some POIs in advance. It is fairly predictable what the opposing team is going to talk about and in spare preparation time, you should come up with at least few POIs. This will save time for building rebuttals and pinpointing speeches during the debate.
DO write your POIs down. It helps you realize the POI fully and most importantly, you won´t forget it in the course of the debate. This way, you can also easily share POIs with your team members easily.
DO make follow up of successfully made POIs in you consecutive speech. You should remind the Judge of what kind of information, strategic advantage did you gain by the POI you made.