Points of information are, if you ask me, the thing that makes the British parliamentary debate interesting.
What is a point of information?
A point of information (POI) is a question or a statement, that is raised while a speaker of the opposing team is speaking. You are allowed to raise a POI at any time in the speech, but not during the protected time. Protected are the first and the last minute of the speech. You will hear a bang on the table (or a similar sound) after the first minute of a speech and before the last minute of the speech. Now it’s time to raise your POI.
How do you ask for a point?
So you stand up and say “Point of information” or “On this point”. This is almost everything that you are allowed to say, when raising a POI (stating what your point is going to be about is not allowed and you will get penalised for a point like “On the point of China”). Now you wait. The speaker has to decide if she is taking your point or not. If yes, the speaker is going to allow you to state your point. If not, she is going to say “no”, “no thanks” or similar, and you will see that some speakers will just sit you down with a hand motion.
If you got an OK, now you have 15 seconds, not more, to raise one point. So think about what you are going to say. And with that I mean that you have to know what exactly you are going to say even before you stand up. If you don’t, it is very possible that you will mess it up. The point is going to be too long or you will not be clear. When I say that you are allowed to make one point, I mean one point, that means that you are not allowed to speak about two problems that they have, even if you believe that they are both equal important.
When should you ask for a question
When to raise a point? Well, there are different tactics. But if you would like to make your point, then you need to stand up, when the speaker makes a break. That means, before he/she is going to start to speak about a new argument, or a new issue. Otherwise, you are likely not to get the point. But you also need to stand up if the speaker is in the middle of something, but you would like to make something obvious to the judges. That means, that if the speaker is saying something really weird, you stand up immediately, even if you know that she is not going to take the point. You will make it obvious to the judges that you know that the point that the speaker made, is not a valid one. Some speakers stand up at the last 10-5 seconds because they know that they are not going to be taken, but they have offered one more point. Most judges are going to record how many points you are going to offer.
You should offer at least 5 points in every speech of the opposing side, so that the judges see, that you are involved in the debate even if you are not speaking. This is even more important if you are one of the first speakers, because there will be almost an hour of the debate, but you will not speak anymore. But don’t make too many points. That means that you should not be standing up and sitting down all the time, because you are going to disturb the speaker and the judges can penalise you for that.
I can also advise you, to try to make a point about the argument, that you are going to make. That means if you are the first speaker of the second government, you should make a POI about the argument that is going to be your extension, so that the argument gets into the debate early, and that way you can make it more important.
A good idea is, that you have a paper on the table on which you write down the points that you would like to make, and with that, you share your points with your debate partner, and with that, your debate partner is going to get an idea about what you think and about what things you are going to use in your speech.
In the end, let me say this. Use your points wisely. Be funny but on the point. Short but kill their argument with the point.
Learn more about points in these videos:
Here are more resources, if you have more questions about points of information in different debate formats:
Lecture on Points of information in debate – Sarina Selleck
Video lecture about Points of information by Rhydian Morgan on World Debate Institute
Lecture by Alfred C. Snider “Points of information class”
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