Contesting tips by K9JY
First, a big tip of the hat to Scot for pulling this list together. I have advocated many of these things but did not have them so succinctly stated or well-organized in my notes, or this blog. His observations about using QRP operations to sharpen your skills are dead-on, for example. I can attest that this approach has helped me a great deal in the brief time I've been in the hobby.
Many of the items on the Scot's list also appeared in the presentations at Contesting University, but Scot left off one very important point that was emphasized during those classes at Dayton: successful contesting requires that you keep your butt in the chair. If you are not in the chair, you are not scoring points. Stay in the chair. Stay focused. Keep working.
Another common mantra in contesting is, "If you're not CQing, your losing." As somebody who works contests at low power or QRP power levels, I find this a bit harsh, but there is wisdom here. Search and pounce (S&P) can provide a steady stream of points, but calling CQ and establishing a run is the only way to win those big contests. While you can't do this the whole time when you run low power or QRP, there are times when this is possible. In one contest I found an empty space on 80m and started calling CQ. After a few minutes I had a nice run going. The contest required the exchange of power levels (perhaps it was ARRL SS, I forget) and contact after contact received my exchange--including the indication that I was running QRP. One fellow, quite amazed at what he heard, asked for a repeat of the exchange and then asked, "you're QRP and you're calling CQ?" Amused, I replied, "Sure! You heard me fine, right? Why not?!"
That one thing: learning to be heard, might be the most important skill contesting will help sharpen. Whether it be in a contest or trying to break that pile-up for that rare DX station, learning how to be heard above the fray is an extremely valuable skill and contesting might be the most fun way to hone it.
Again, my congratulations to Scot for a fine series in September. Thank you!