30 Ham Radio Contest tips — Have an operating plan

Contest PlansThis month, I’m providing a ham radio contest tip-a-day (along with other posts) to help you trigger your own contesting activities.

Today’s tip: Have an operating plan.

If you plan on spending a significant amount of time in a specific contest, particularly contests that are a full 48-hours long or ones that require certain times off, it’s a great idea to create an operating plan for the contest.

Having a contest plan is useful in five ways:

  1. Plan the operating/off time. Whether you need to take time off because of the contest rules or want to take time off because of a 48-hour contest, having a plan for the contest will tell you when to take off the time.
  2. Plan band changes. Sometimes we are so caught up in the contest — or are so tired from operating — we forget that other bands are opening. For example, at the low end of the sunspot cycle, you might forget that EU opening on 40-meters starts at 3 PM local time on the east coast of the United States.
  3. Plan propagation openings. In the middle of the contest, it’s easy to forget while running Europe that long path to Australia is open as well. Having a propagation reminder will help you check other antenna directions at the right time.
  4. Planning gives you a comparison to current operating. All contest plans, someone said, are valid until the first QSO. The idea of a plan is not that it needs to be strictly followed, but gives you a comparison so that you can contrast current operating reality with that of something that makes sense. In the midst of battle, it’s hard to know if you’re doing the right thing. But if your contest plan says to check 15-meters, you can and know that it was set up to help you succeed. If 15-meters isn’t open, that is OK; you just did a reality check against a plan.
  5. A plan gives you two data points for the next contest. The plan you had and the reality you experienced. From this, you can create a better plan for the next contest.

Contest plans aren’t for every contest. But they are a great help for the right contests.

Scot, K9JY