The Toronto Debating Society Points of Information - A Guide
What are Points of Information?
Points of Information are an opportunity for a member of the opposing side to interject with a question or comment during a speech.
A Point of Information is not intended to give rise to a dialogue nor is it intended to be a speech that allows the opposing member to dominate the current speaker’s time allotment. (Note that the time allotted for the speech is not increased to offset the interruption.)
Are Points of Information Mandatory?
No. The Government and the Opposition must agree before the debate begins to allow Points of Information during the debate.
How are Points of Information Made?
There is a four-step protocol.
Step 1: The member wishing to make the Point of Information stands Step 2: The member speaking has three options:
< accept the POI by saying “Yes”
< defer the POI by saying “Just a minute please”
< reject the POI by saying “No thank you” (or simply waving his hand is a “sit down” gesture also works) Step 3: Depending on the decision of the member speaking, the member makes his POI and then sits down, remains standing until the member speaking says “Yes” or sits down.
Step 4: If the member speaking has accepted the POI, he or she should address the POI immediately and then continue with his or her speech.
Is a follow-up permitted?
DEFINITELY NOT The intent is not to start a dialogue. The member making a Point of Information may start the protocol over again but the speaker is not obliged to accept the new Point of Information.
Is there a strategy for dealing with Points of Information?
The member making a Point of Information will usually try to either throw a speaker off his or her train of thought or raise doubts about the argument in the mind of the audience.
Is the Speaker involved in POI’s?
No. Typically the Speaker does not need to become engaged in POI’s unless he/ she feels that the person requesting the POI has grossly overstepped their boundaries.
© (2008) Toronto Debating Society
The Toronto Debating Society
Points of Information: It’s just Tactics folks!
Points of Information are offered to the member currently speaking . They are not inflicted. They can only be offered after the first minute and before the last minute of a speech. Either debater opposing the member having the floor, can offer a POI during this time, but the member having the floor has full authority to reject or accept the POI. Once accepted, the offering of the POI should be as brief and concise as possible.
The major characteristic of delivering a POI is to destabalise your opponents:
< Thought process
< Composure (it’s a jungle out there folks)
Delivering a POI
If your offer is accepted, be brief! A good POI should be delivered succinctly in a few seconds. Remember:
< Make certain you can be seen by the member having the floor
< Keep your POI short and to the point: try making the POI in 5 and no more than, 10 seconds
< Aim to make it a sharp question; one that demands an full answer
Handling a POI
As the debater having the floor, you have to make the acceptance or rejection of POI explicit.
< A hand waving the offering debater to sit down, or a “No Thank you” is quite acceptable
< “I will take your point in 20 seconds” is also perfectly acceptable
< Leaving the offering debater standing ignored for more than 10 seconds is not
Once accepted the member who should address (or at least give the appearance of addressing) the Point of Information quickly and then return to the arguments he or she wishes to make. A quick comeback is the ideal, but even experienced speakers will usually think of these the next day. The most important thing for the speaker having the floor, is to stay focused on his or her arguments.
The Speaker and POIs
Typically, you would not expect or require the Speaker to be involved in POI’s; if this occurs, this indicates poor judgement by one or both sides. However, the Speaker is expected to make sure that the rules of the house are maintained and POIs are not abused. This includes:
< When a POI is offered outside the restricted time period, the POI becomes overly extended, or a POI is
delivered without express consent, the Speaker must admonish or dismiss the offering party
< POIs are adjudicated as an integral part of a debate based on its general impact towards the debate.
< POIs themselves affect the debate significantly, making some arguments look stronger than the others,
so indirectly POIs are already taken into account when the adjudicators mark each speech.
As a debater, by verbalising an opposing idea, you will find, with practice, that more ideas come more readily. You are able to immediately challenge suspect information, or point out contradictions between speakers Well chosen and well placed POI, can really liven up the debate for the audience. (Adjudicators)
© (2008) Toronto Debating Society