How to raise and answer the most common type of formal interruption: a POI.
Some judges love them, some are more ambivalent. Chances are, a point of information will be raised about once or twice per constructive speech. Knowing how to raise them – and answer them – is a critical aspect of gaining fluency as a debater.
What is a POI?
A point of information is a formal interruption raised in an opponent's constructive speech (the first four speeches of the round.) They are structured as 'pointed questions' – short queries attempting to throw your opponent off guard or expose a flaw in their case.
POIs typically must take under fifteen seconds (and the best ones tend to be shorter than that.)
Typically, debaters should take 1-2 POIs in a speech. Any more than that wastes time; any less appears avoidant of the other team.
POIs should be short and pick apart a case. After being brought up in an opponent's speech, debaters can remind the judge of an answer during their own speech.
For example, if a side is advocating for the use of nuclear energy and points to very low rates of nuclear accidents, an effective POI might be, "How many nuclear disasters are acceptable per decade?" This points out a flaw in that side's case.
Some examples of bad POIs are as follows:
"Can I have a source for that?"
"That's not true because..."
"You said X, but what would you say to ..."
Anything that is not a question
Raising a POI is a matter of preference. Traditionally, debaters put one hand on their head and raise the other, then stand up. (This harkens back to British Parliament, where members had to hold onto their wigs.) Sometimes, they will verbally interrupt a speech by saying, "POI."
However, raising them tends to be highly stylistic. The best course of action is to ask your opponents what they would like.
After asking a question, a debater will sit down again and cannot ask a follow-up unless recognized again.
The most effective answers are short and head-on. If possible, consider directly attacking the premise of the POI. If not, attempt to outweigh the point made. However, it rarely works to avoid the question. Here are some unhelpful answers:
"My partner will answer that."
"I think my opponents already know the answer to that."
"That's irrelevant to what I'm saying right now."
The strongest debaters will address POIs well, but do not spend too much time on them. Remember–POIs are designed to trip you up!