Introduction to Debate: Know These Six Advanced POI Strategies

Coach Mike
Post by Coach Mike
Introduction to Debate: Know These Six Advanced POI Strategies

Have you ever watched a crime-drama TV show? If you have, you’ve probably seen an interrogation scene. The detective sits opposite the suspect, in a small, dingy room, with just a bare lightbulb hanging overhead. The detective grills the suspect with hundreds of questions, as investigators watch through one-way glass. The detective slams the table as they try to break the suspect’s alibi. Of course, if the questions are bad, then the suspects can avoid answering them and they can get away with the crime. If the questions are good, however, then the chances are in the favor of the detective, and we start to see beads of sweat roll down the suspect’s forehead. Your objective in BP is much the same: ask difficult questions that expose weaknesses in your opponent’s case. The main difference between an interrogation room and a debate hall is that the debate venues usually have better lighting.

In this article, you will learn six strategies for asking sharp and challenging points of information, and how to utilize POIs as an opening team against a closing team and as a closing team against an opening team. Let’s get started!

Strategy 1: Plan

You want to always write down your POIs so you can word them precisely. Do not “wing” POIs – otherwise, you won’t phrase them as clearly or effectively as you could. You only get fifteen seconds, so every word counts, and perfect wording can make the difference between effectively knocking out a team’s case and a wasted opportunity.

Strategy 2: Communicate

Whenever your team offers a POI, both team members should know what the POI is and be planning to offer the same one. Communicating about POIs is essential for two reasons. First, so you can decide on which issues are the most strategic to focus on, and second, so you can be sure of exactly how to phrase the questions.

Strategy 3: Prioritize

Most importantly, POIs should not just be an instinctive response to whatever the speaker happens to be saying at that minute. POIs should also not focus on trivial aspects, such as challenging a fact or example, or pointing out a small logical gap, for instance. You should work out which clash is the most important to focus on and ensure that the POI you give engages with that clash in the way that most effectively damages your opponent’s case or strengthens your own. Sometimes this means that when you ask the speaker your POI, it won’t be directly related to what they’re talking about at that moment – and that’s ok!

Strategy 4: Adapt

The best POI is likely to change as the debate goes on and cases evolve. Make sure you’re adjusting based on what the speakers are saying and don’t get set on one specific idea you came up with early on in the debate or during prep.

Strategy 5: Refer Back To Previous POIs

If you or your partner have given a POI before your speech, make sure to refer back to that POI in your speech to make full use of both the POI you asked and the answer you were given. To do this effectively, make sure that every POI you ask has a specific purpose, such as trying to push your opponents towards a concession. For example, let’s say the debate is on banning combat sports. You might offer a POI to Opening Opposition asking if they believe that dueling to the death should be illegal. If they say that it should not be illegal, but don’t explain why they think dueling to the death and combat sports are meaningfully different, then you should get up in your speech and explain why the logic for banning dueling to death should apply equally to combat sports. Of course, if you’ve already given both of your speeches then don’t ask any POIs which require a follow-up in your speech!

Strategy 6: Think of the Impact

Make sure to clarify why you’re asking the question you’re asking, and what strategic impact it has on the debate. To illustrate, let’s compare two options for POIs. Option number one: “Won’t people just buy cigarettes illegally?” Option number two: “Since banning things doesn’t mean that people don’t want to consume them anymore, why would banning smoking effectively reduce the number of smokers rather than simply force people towards the black market of harmful unregulated cigarettes?” It’s clear that the second POI is superior – for two reasons. First, it connects the POI to claims already made in the debate and allows the judge to see how the point made by your team interacts with the opposing team’s points. Second, the explanation as to why black markets are harmful that comes at the end is important to show the judge why this is an important question with an impact on the debate, as opposed to one that the opposing team can just wave away.

Now that you’ve learned these six strategies to ask sharp and challenging POIs, in the second part of this article, you’ll learn some specific techniques for “diagonal engagement” and answering questions.

VIDEO 2/2 (823 words)

Welcome back! In the first part of this lesson you learned six strategies for crafting strong POIs. In this part of the lesson, you’ll learn about “diagonal engagement” – that is, OG engaging with CO and OO engaging with CG.

One of the challenges of BP debate is that not every team gets to rebut each other. For instance, Opening Opposition never gets a chance to rebut Closing Government! Frustrating, right? Luckily, we have the ability to ask and answer POIs. You should take POIs “on the diagonal” first. This way, you have a chance to engage with a team you otherwise wouldn’t be able to. Ask POIs with high strategic significance, so that you can identify weakness in the response that the other team gave and use it against them later. You can do this by asking a POI, and then in your speech explain why that question was important and why the opponent’s answer weakened their case. Your next consideration should be taking POIs from the team you are most concerned about beating, to give you a chance to respond to their attacks and to show the judges why you’re coming ahead of them.

So how do you strategically engage with the opening half if you’re in closing half? When you, as a closing team, are addressing a POI to the opening diagonal team, you want to make sure that you allow the opening team a fair chance for engagement so that the judge can truly weigh between your cases. Therefore, if you need anything clarified or want to challenge the set-up, model, or premise of the debate, highlight this in a POI right from the start. If you wait until your speeches, the debate will be quite messy and the judge may decide you addressed the issue too late. However, while diagonal engagement is important as the bottom half, you should only raise points from your extension to the second speaker of the opposing opening team. If you give away your extension any earlier than this, your opening half team can steal it from you.

Now, what if you’re the opening half – how do you engage with closing through POIs? As an opening team, the main purpose of addressing a POI to the opposite closing team is to ensure that the judge remembers your case and sees why it’s still relevant to the debate and beats the other teams. It’s usually a good strategic move to use POIs to frame your opponents’ case against yours and emphasize why you beat them. Doing so will help the judge compare your cases and it’ll allow you to explain why your case is relevant to the important clashes in the debate. For example, a POI from an opening team might sound like:

Since we proved the government doesn’t have the right to interfere in personal choices, why is your case about people making harmful personal choices still important in the debate?

If possible, you should also use your POI to emphasize why you are beating your own closing team. It sounds strange but it’s true – the POI to the other side is your only chance to respond to your own closing team. Sometimes this can be done by adding a couple of words to the same POI. For example:

As we have first analyzed, the government doesn’t have the right to interfere in personal choices, so why is the clash in the bottom half of the debate about people making harmful personal choices still important in the debate?

Of course, other good teams will use these strategies as well. So, when you receive what seems to be a challenging POI, first – stop and think! Don’t rush into a response which will trap your team into a specific position for the rest of the debate. Take a moment to collect your thoughts, and even take a sip of water. This will allow you a few seconds to craft a better response. Remember that you can always reject the entire premise of a question. For example, if a team tries asking a question that gives you two bad answers such as “Isn't it likely that politicians will eventually become corrupt or exhausted and inefficient?” answering either way would probably be bad for you. Instead, reject the premise of the question, and answer and answer, “No, neither is true or likely. There are in fact many long-term qualified and ethical politicians who are doing a great job.”

Let’s recap. In this lesson you learned six strategies for crafting strong POIs: plan, communicate with your team, prioritize issues, adapt, refer back to previous POIs, and explain the question’s impact. You’ve also learned the importance of engaging with the team on your diagonal and how best to do so. Now, when you’re on the receiving end of a POI and the spotlight falls on you, it may feel like an interrogation, but take a moment to collect your thoughts and you’ll survive! Make your opponents sweat with your hard-hitting POIs, detective.

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Coach Mike
Post by Coach Mike