Most contesting looks like a gauntlet to beginning contesters. You have to know the contest operating hours, what all the rules are for the contest, know the exchange, work on your code speed, figure out propagation for the contest — and then compare your newbie self to all those big guns in the contesting world.
Then wonder how you will ever compete.
The answer to that is to have goals for your contest participation. A lot of contesters write about having goals for a contest, of course. But they write about goals for a certain number of contacts, points, or perhaps year-to-year comparisons for the contest.
That works, of course. But, for starting out in the new world of contesting, I’d suggest having goals in different areas outside of goals oriented to the results of the contest.
Here are four reasons to have goals for the contest that aren’t related to the results of the contest:
You define success for the contest. If you are just starting out, you cannot be a world wide champion in the largest contest on the planet. But you can win on your personal goals, no matter your situation.
Limited time for the contest. Contests, at most, are 48-hours long. Since there isn’t a lot of time, having goals around the contest will help keep you focused during that short time.
Defines your elevator speech. When someone — friend, ham or family — asks you what you are doing in the contest, your goal helps define your 30-second response. “I’ve got a new antenna and I want to see how it performs busting pile ups. This contest is the perfect way to test it.”
Removes feeling overwhelmed. Opening up the volume on your radio the first hour of CQ WW and it’s easy to be overwhelmed with your 100-watts and a vertical. Having goals helps stay out of the overwhelmed area and instead gets you moving on your goals for the contest.
Once you’ve done a fair amount of contesting, having goals about the contest results (500 QSO’s in 12-hours on 20-meters) makes sense. But starting out, we should have goals about what we’re trying to accomplish in the contest — either personal skills or station capabilities.