This is the second installment in a two part series about answering points of information. The first two rules can be found here. Last article we discussed how to setup points of information through transitioning and when to reject points of information. In this post we’ll explore the content of your answers.
Rule 3. Think Strategically
Answers to points of information can make or break a round. I know from experience. It was the last elimination round of the day at one of the largest parliamentary tournaments of the year. My partner and I flew out from Washington to California and were excited to debate. The resolution was: “Iran is a greater threat to the world than North Korea”.
My partner and I powered through preparation and walked into the round confident in our arguments. We were opposition and our case centered around Iran not having nuclear weapons, and only threatening certain nations, rather than the world.
I delivered the first opposition speech, finished my first contention about nuclear weapons, and heard the words: “Point of information”. “If someone has a gun, but never uses it, are they still a threat?” Without thinking, my answer was: “No, but North Korea will use their nukes.” After giving that answer, I thought I did a great job at first. I thought it made for a smooth transition into my second contention about North Korea wanting to use their weapons against more nations than Iran… Then I realized it destroyed the entire strategic basis of our case.
My partner and my strategy was to impose two burdens on the government/affirmative, and argue that if they lose either of the contentions, we win the round. By agreeing to the point of information that power is useless without motivation to use the power, all our opponents had to do was prove that Iran had more motivation to use their power. My answer to their point of information meant that they didn’t have to prove anything about greater power. Now they only had to prove one burden, not two. Immediately, half of my speech became moot and our case structure fell apart. We lost the round on a 3-2 split, and every ballot we lost made the same comment: The point of information answer undermined our case.
I’ve learned a lesson from that experience and thankfully haven’t made the same mistake again. The lesson is this: Don’t just think before you answer… Think strategically. Before I saw the ballots, I thought my answer was stellar because it made for a smooth transition. I wasn’t thinking about strategy, I was thinking about delivery. If I had thought strategically, I would’ve answered differently and my partner and I probably would’ve advanced to the next round.
The trick to thinking strategically for points of information is asking yourself: How will my answer affect the rest of my case?
Think strategically before you answer.
Rule 4. Go on The Offensive
This rule is to be handled with care. Your answers can do more than just defense, they can turn the round in your favor. The majority of parliamentary competitors reveal too much in their points of information. Unlike cross-examinations for LD and TP, your opponents haven’t had much time to think through the resolution. Their points of information are likely to be worded in a manner too vague to be persuasive or so specific they reveal exactly what they’re going to say in their next speech. The trick to turning the tide in your favor is to utilize the information they reveal to preempt their argument.
Imagine the following scenario: You give the value of justice. Your opponent asks: “Point of information. Who determines what is just?” Think strategically – your opponent is asking about the subjectivity of justice. Meaning that they are going to disagree with your value, and their response will be that justice is subjective. They wouldn’t imply justice is subjective if they were planning to agree with it. Your opponent made a huge mistake by revealing that information, and you’ve been given an opportunity. Here’s how you can make the most out of it: Step one, answer the question. You could either explain how justice is objective or if you decide to concede that it is subjective, you can explain why your value is still the best.
That’s not all – here’s how you go on the offensive: Step two, preempt your opponent’s position throughout the rest of the speech. You know your opponent is going to disagree with the value of justice, so when you’re giving your contentions, call back to how important justice is. Meaning that when your opponent gets up for their next speech, the wind is completely taken out of it.
Don’t stay on the defensive. Play offense.
Points of information take experience to answer persuasively. With these rules, you’re armed with tournaments worth of analysis and the foundation of how to answer points 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.