Responding to POIs

While almost every debater feels comfortable asking POIs, very few know how to effectively respond to POIs asked during their speeches. In this article, we will review specific types of POIs, and how you should engage with this content.

If you have participated in at least one round of parliamentary-style debate, whether that be World Schools, Open Parliamentary or HSPDP, you have most definitely encountered intimidating POIs. In reality, POIs are far simpler than they appear. There are three main types of POIs: the fact POI, the unrelated POI, and the principled-extension POI.

The Fact POI

Perhaps the most common form of a POI is one where the speaker states a simple fact and demands your thoughts on that statistic or piece of information. Regardless of how basic these questions are, they often appear the most challenging to engage. There are several factors that shift your response to the question. First, if the information presented is, in fact, correct, try to analyze the context of the statistic. Oftentimes, statistics are not as impactful when you put the information into context: perhaps the study only analyzes information from decades ago, is conducted by a biased source, or is even misquoted. Thus, make sure to think deeply about the type of statistic that is actually being provided. Secondly, if the information presented is actually false, make sure that you clearly state the mischaracterization. Either correct the information presented or provide your own fact or analysis that rebukes the information brought up by the questioner. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, use logic. Sources or facts alone rarely win the debate in parliamentary formats. Consider the logic behind the fact or the warranting of the other team, and attack that directly. Frankly, logic is far more powerful than unwarranted statistics in these debates.

The Unrelated POI

Oftentimes, when you are in the heart of your speech, the opposing speaker will ask you a question largely unrelated to the content you are presenting. The purpose of this POI is to distract you from the important information you were discussing and sidetrack you into engaging with an unrelated POI. The best way to deal with this POI is through time management. Make sure to properly respond to the POI, but remember to prioritize your own planned speech content. Typically, never spend more than 15-30 seconds responding to a POI, especially when it is unrelated to the core of the debate.

The Principled-Extension POI

Especially when debating in a World Schools round or a value motion in Open Parliamentary, you will have to defend your case on a principled level, using ethical and philosophical framework to construct your arguments. When taking a principled stance on a topic, you become susceptible to the other team’s attempts to poke holes in your principled framework. For example, if you are debating the proposition/affirmative side of a value motion, “This House would not eat meat.” The other team might POI you and ask, “given that you principally do not defend eating meat, would this logic apply to other forms of animal products, such as eggs or milk.” There are two notes necessary to respond to these types of POIs. Firstly, remember the topic being debated. The further away you get from the core of the debate, the more challenging a stance you have to defend. Thus, it is often helpful to remind the team of the wording of the motion and carefully indicate that their inability to stay within its bounds represents their inability to engage with the crux of your case. Secondly, set principled boundaries with your team before the actual debate. Regardless of if the round is prepared or impromptu, you should understand where exactly your team wants to draw the ethical line so as not to misconstrue your case.

Points of information can be challenging. But, practice coupled with the approaches outlined previously ensures that one is able to answer any question posed by the opposing team. For more information, please review our other General Information Resource articles about POIs.