“Point of information.”*stops mid-sentence* “um I’ll uh take your point.” As I stuttered through my first ever answer to a point of information in parliamentary debate, I noticed that points of information are nothing like cross-examination.
They’re daunting, they’re different, and they’re difficult. Understanding how to effectively answer points of information takes countless hours to learn. Over the course of tens of parliamentary tournaments and hundreds of parliamentary speeches, I’ve come to four basic rules to make the most out of answering points of information. Over the course of two articles, I’d like to share them with you.
If you haven’t heard of them before, points of information are a part of parliamentary debate, where competitors can ask their opponents a question mid-speech. Even if you don’t debate in parliamentary, I’ve found that the mindset and lessons behind answering points of information cross over to other forms of debate.
I’ve primarily competed in parliamentary in Stoa and online leagues, so this article is geared toward the culture, rules, and expectations of those leagues.
The first two rules we’ll cover will discuss how to setup your answer to the point of information and the next article will discuss your content.
Rule 1. Finish Your Thought
I messed up my first point of information right off the bat. Stopping mid-sentence. Points of information, if not handled correctly, can interrupt the flow of your speech.
The solution is simple: Finish your thought and have a transition phrase before answering a point of information.
For instance, if you’re delivering your second contention in the first constructive, and your opponent stands up for a point of information, take the 10-15 seconds needed to finish your thought, and then transition with a phrase such as: “Before we move further, I’ll answer my opponent’s point of information”.
Notice the two parts of that example: Finishing the argument and telling the judge that you’re transitioning. It’s also important to recognize that you don’t want to take too long to finish your thought. You need to answer the point of information in a reasonable amount of time, so don’t drone on forever.
It’s important to finish your thought for multiple reasons.
First, if you answer your opponent’s point of information without finishing your sentence, you’re signaling to the judge that the question is more important than the argument you were giving. That’s harmful to both your argument and your credibility.
Second, allowing your opponent to interrupt your sentence, can derail the flow of the argument. Parliamentary is difficult because you don’t have much time to prepare your case, so getting back on track is generally harder than it is in LD or TP. That’s all solvable by simply taking the time to finish your thought.
Rule 2. Learn When to Reject
In Stoa, you’re not required to answer points of information. You may answer as many, or as few as you’d like. Of course, you need to answer some points of information, but you shouldn’t feel obligated to answer all of them.
Reject points of information when you legitimately don’t have enough time in the speech for them and you’ve already answered a fair amount. I’d recommend taking at least the first two points of information, as that’s considered fair enough by most judges. Judges can tell if you’re rejecting points of information even though you have plenty of time to answer them – they’ll see your speech run out of meaningful content.
On the flip side, if you legitimately don’t have time, you’ve answered a reasonable amount of points of information, and the rest of your speech is packed with solid content, judges will usually understand that.
The distinction to remember is time. If you have enough time, take the point of information. If you don’t have enough time, reject the point of information.
About the Author
Kyle Lee has competed in both NCFCA and Stoa. His accomplishments include over fifty top-three finishes, the record for the most first places won at a single NCFCA tournament (seven firsts in one go at the 2020 Bothell WA, NCFCA Qualifier), first place Lincoln Douglas debater & speaker at the 2020 NCFCA Online National Championship, and first place Team Policy debater & speaker at the 2020 Stoa Online National Championship.
Outside of speech and debate, Kyle is an avid rock climber, holds a second-degree black belt in Karate, and enjoys writing music in his free time.