Points of Information, also known as "POIs," are an essential aspect of debate for all three Parliamentary formats. In this article, we will review the basics of POIs and analyze how it functions in each specific format.
Points of information, also known as “POIs,” are one of the most fundamental aspects of parliamentary debate formats.
In fact, POIs are featured in World Schools, Open Parliamentary, and HSPDP debate. Generally, POIs are a mechanism for an opposing team to question the current speaker. A POI is a piece of information or a question that serves two purposes. Firstly, a POI can be used to ask a clarifying question about the other team’s stance. But secondly, and more commonly, a POI is used to encourage a concession from the current speaker. Ultimately, one should ask a question where the speaker is left in a bind - the only effective answers would force a concession of their case. For those from Policy and Lincoln Douglas debate formats, consider POIs miniature, respectful cross-examination questions.
Ultimately, one should ask a question where the speaker is left in a bind - the only effective answers would force a concession of their case.
There are a few rules that apply to asking points of information across parliamentary formats. The most important rule to note is that POIs have very specific timing rules. POIs themselves should not last more than fifteen seconds, nor should they be asked more than fifteen seconds apart. So, aggressively giving POIs to confuse the current speaker will only violate parliamentary rules and be disrespectful to the speaker and the round. Furthermore, after the person providing the POI finishes asking the question, that is the end of your questioning time. As such, you can not follow-up questions once the current speaker responds. If you are acknowledged by the speaker, however, you may give multiple POIs. Moreover, the current speaker can accept any number of POIs that they desire throughout the speech. Typically, accepting 1-2 POIs strikes a healthy balance between engaging with the opposing side and leaving enough time to cover all necessary content. Both providing and answering POIs are strategically advantageous to the speaker as long as the number is not excessive either way.
Although POIs are used in various formats, there are several differences that are important to note. The following are a few format-specific rules for points of information.
World Schools Debate: For this format, POIs can be asked during the first two constructive speeches, as well as the third rebuttal speeches. However, POIs are not allowed in the fourth speech. A common form of POIs in World schools requires the speaker to approve or disapprove of a concept similar to the motion on a principled level. So, make sure that you and your team decide before the round to what extent you support a specific policy or idea you are defending. For more information on World Schools POIs, visit this video from the National Speech and Debate Association.
Parliamentary Debate: POIs can only be given during the first and second speeches in the Parliamentary format. One aspect of POIs specific to Parliamentary debate is that POIs must be questions, not statements. In other formats, stating a fact or promoting an opinion without a specific question is allowed. But Parliamentary is specific in that the one giving a POI must ask a question itself.
HSPDP Debate: This format does not have any incredibly specific rules for POIs. However, in addition to POIs, the speaker can give a type of speech called “heckling,” which is often confused with a POI. For more information on heckling, visit our article in HSPDP Resources.
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