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Event Overviews and Resources 2: Program Oral Interpretation (Feat. POI Tips from Kambrie White)

Updated: Jan 1, 2021

Welcome to A Long Winter's Clap: 12 Days of Speech and Debate Event Overviews and Resources. Today we are talking about Program Oral Interpretation - featuring tips from current awesome Cheyenne East competitor, Kambrie White.


Program Oral Interpretation (POI) is kind of like Poetry, kind of like Drama, and kind of its own thing at the same time. POI is an individual event in which a competitor uses cuttings from poetry, prose, nonfiction, and drama to fashion a ten-minute performance that focuses on a specific thesis.

Here is a description straight from the NSDA:

“Program Oral Interpretation relies on the performer’s ability to portray a wide range of characters and literature all held together under a common theme. Each program must contain at least two of the three genres and students are encouraged to include all three. There is a set time limit of ten minutes, with a thirty second grace period. Students who choose to compete in POI should focus on making an interesting argument that is supported in different ways by each piece of literature they select.”

Program Oral Interpretation is a Frankenstein’s monster mash-up, remix event for the ages - and competitors try to bring all these various pieces together in a unified performance. Performers must utilize a small black binder (like Poetry) that holds a manuscript during the POI. The binder presents a lot of opportunities for performers to get creative with their blocking and pops - but also can be a challenge to integrate in a way that does not take away from the message of the cutting.

POI is a super challenging event for many of the same reasons as other interpretive events, but there are some unique challenges. Balance of varied genres, clean transitions, a clear message or thesis, and the ability to find the right puzzle piece cutting for presentation are all extremely difficult in POI. But, it is another event that really gives students the opportunity to say something meaningful to them - to spread a message that they want to send out to their audience. It can be an incredibly powerful event.


Program Oral Interpretation Tips from Kambrie White - Cheyenne East Speech and Debate Competitor

Tip 1: Choose something YOU are passionate about. Don’t think about placing or how well a topic will do with judges. Choose something that is actually important to YOU.

Tip 2: Choose a backbone or a narrative first for your POI. Think about what is going to guide the heart of your piece? These narratives are generally a first person story.

Tip 3: Counter voices in POI are great. Try to find something for your cutting that goes against the argument in your POI. This makes the counter voice seem more villainous and helps to rationalize your argument.

Tip 4: Your book is your best friend when performing. Using your book in different and creative ways can really help differentiate characters and scenes.

Tip 5: Perform because you want to be performing. In speech sometimes we get so caught up in places and trophies but remember that there is so much more to speech than that. Perform because you want to spread a message.

Thanks so much to Kambrie for the gift of these super smart Program Oral Interpretation tips for competitors.


While I don't have a specific episode of One Clap that directly addresses POI in an extensive way (yet), I will link to a couple of episodes with some good advice from some smart folks for anyone competing in interpretative events here:

Jayden Roccaforte, 2020 Prose National Champion, Knows the Power of a Powerful Story

Saga McAllister and Coach Ashley Schulz Get to the Heart of Interpretation

Be sure to subscribe, rate, and review the One Clap Podcast wherever you listen! Watch for new episodes of One Clap, Rock On! Debate, Coach Connection, and Speech Love!


More links to helpful resources for Program Oral Interpretation:

NSDA Competition Guide:

Speech Resources Video from the 2020 Wyoming Coaches Conference, Presented by Marcus Viney and Ashley Schulz:

Getting Started Guide to POI from NSDA:

How to Judge POI from NSDA:

What to expect in POI from a Student's Perspective from NSDA:

Resources for POI from Judge Training:

POI Resources from

Intro to Coaching POI Course from NSDA:

Sample POI Ballot with Comments from NSDA:


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