Friday, April 7, 2017

Applying Toastmaster's Speaking Tennets to Radiosport

While I have been a member of Toastmaster's International for 2 1/2 years, I only recently realized that there is a direct correlation between the 10 projects we take on in the Competant Communicator (CC) manual and the way amateurs engaging in radiosport operate during a typical contest weekend. Serious contesters and traffic handlers are always looking for ways to improve their operating ART.

As the current President of the Alameda Tongue Twisters in the SF bay area, I direct our sargeant-at-arms to read the Toastmaster's club mission statement opening each meeting.
Every club participates in the goal:

To provide a mutually supportive and positive learning environment in which every individual member has the opportunity to develop oral communication and leadership skills, which in turn foster self-confidence and personal growth.

Speaking and leadership are overlapping qualities and activities. It is easier to excel in Radiosport when everything we say/do is precisely crafted to maximize the quality of our actions. 
This is a technical way of saying EVERYTHING we do has a specific purpose - if its
not necessary, don't waste your time.

Doing things the same way every time breeds confidence and efficiency.

The 10 Competent Communicator projects provide
a gradient approach to improving our communication skills.

As it turns out, the focus of each project can be adapted to radiosport operating.

In radiosport, because we endeavor to communicate with as many amateurs during a given time period (such as 12, 24, 30 or 48 hours), maximizing the effectiveness of our operation (and our operating skills) will iteratively increase our score, each succeeding year.

Here are the 10 Projects.





    1. CC Project #1 is known as the Ice Breaker.
      This speech is where people get to find out a little about us; who we
      are and where we're from, as well as something unique about us.
      In radiosport, the equivalent of the ice breaker is when I setup operations on a given
      frequency and make a "CQ Contest" call; effectively declaring my station as "open
      for business" (i.e. open for communication).
      If I do this well, I will attract listeners who will then want to respond back to me.
      If I do this POORLY, at best I will be ignored, or at worst someone may decide
      to JAM my transmissions out of spite or disgust.
      Properly identifying ourselves is not only required by international
      telecommunication laws, it is also a show of confidence and respect,
      as well as being the most important piece of information communicated
      during a radiosport contest exchange, as well as during traffic handling.
    2. CC Project #2 is about organizing our speaking; what we speak
      and in what order we speak it.
      In radiosport, properly delivered, a contest exchange not only contains specific information (unique to each contest), the information is also delivered in a SPECIFIC order. This can be demonstrated by way of an example I lifted from another WQ6X contest BLOG entry on how NoT to do it:

      Now regarding Sweepstakes itself, let us remember that the event originated in the 1930's
      as a traffic handling practice event. In case you haven't noticed, what we are sending during
      a sweepstakes exchange is the equivalent of the header information sent at the beginning
      of every radiogram.

      Data in the header is in a SPECIFIC order and an EXACT format:
      Your Callsign, QSO NR, Precedence, My Callsign, Check & Section.

      For example, if W6K works WQ6X, our message to Ron would look like this:
      "WQ6X NR 523 M W6K 69 EB" - meaning that WQ6X is our 523rd contact,
      we are a Multi-OP station with the callsign of W6K, first licensed in 1969,
      operating from the East Bay section (in California).

      Please do NOT feel free to arrange the data in some other order as K0TQ did;

      his exchange of "W6K 285 B 64 K0TQ IN" is not only out of touch with the spirit of message header format, it induces operators (such as myself) to ask for a repeat - in my case 3 times - because something about it doesn't "sound" right; even though technically,
      all the information is there.
    3. CC Project #3 is known as "Get to the point".
      Except for leisurely radiosport activities like Field Day (FD), contest exchanges
      are meant to be SHORT and DIRECT; no unnecessary information transmitted.
      For example: when the contest exchange requires you to send 599 and your State
      (such as California), if I ask you to repeat your STATE, I DO NOT want to hear
      599 again; its worthless information anyway; time is wasted repeating
      information we don't care about.  Just gimme your STATE, dammit! 

      For CW and RTTY contests this is easily solved by defining a computer function key
      to send JUST the needed information. For the NAQP contest which asks us for
      our Name and QTH I define the N1MM+ software function keys as follows

      F2 - "RON CA"
      F6 - "RON"
      F7 - "CA"
      Normally I press F2 to send the full exchange. If I am asked for a repeat I press
      F2 again. If I am asked ONLY for Name or QTH then I press F6/F7 accordingly;
      several times if necessary.
    4. CC Project #4 is known as "How to Say it".
      In radiosport this is about learning to speak SLOWLY (but not TOO slow)
      and succinctly; especially when you give us your callsign.
      While we tend to primarily use the English language (even during worldwide contests),
      realize that outside the U.S., Canada, UK and "down under", people's grasp of the English language is rather limited. Correctly communicating your callsign is the most important thing you can do. If an operator on the other end mishears your call,
      it will be entered in the log as it was heard; the result being you are penalized
      with a not-in-log (NIL) error. 
      If that QSO represented a new multiplier,
      you are DOUBLE penalized.

      Operators for whom English is a second (or third) language should rehearse BEFORE
      the contest saying their callsign slowly and succinctly. Frequently I hear Italian or deep European stations repeating their call at the speed of machine gun fire.
      This requires me to often spend over a minute of time just trying to figure out
      WHO they are; as the callsign may already be in the log for that band.

      I should not have to wait around trying to decipher your gibberish like RTTY
      decoder software - I should be able get it FIRST TIME.

      In order for that to happen, you must say everything correctly.
      When you factor in the effects of QRM (interference) and QRN (Static/Noise) - as always happens in a contest - speaking precisely and correctly become even more important.
    5. CC Project #5 is "Your body speaks".
      In radiosport we prefer this in reverse - we prefer our bodies to NOT speak; unnecessary physical motions slow down the operation. The venerable Katashi Nose (KH6IJ) once pointed out that picking up your pencil/pen and putting it down to send code with the key several times, adds approx. 8 seconds to EACH QSO made. Making 500 QSOs in a weekend will result in 4,000 seconds spent on this action alone. 4,000 seconds = 66.67 MINUTES! - a WHOLE HOUR spent on just picking up your pen and putting it down. wOw!
      Katashi Nose - KH6IJ

      (His solution was to learn how to keep the pen balanced between the thumb and index
      finger, allowing the operator to send and write with the same hand; or to send with one
      hand and write with another.)

      In general, unnecessary movements are to be avoided. Because radiosport is about
      listening, sitting quietly yet deeply focused on the frequency-of-interest is how it all begins, and then ends.
      Having your body under control makes a contributive difference.

      Essentially, this is the body speaking - but in REVERSE - speaking by NoT speaking.
    6. CC Project #6 is "Vocal Variety".
      Here, we focus on the specific voice inflections that are needed to communicate
      the message. In radiosport we make extensive use of phonetics for communicating
      callsigns and abbreviations.
      Using phonetics as part of your speaking requires practice and rehearsal.
      Sharing the headphones with experienced operators as they work a
      contest pileup will quickly orient you on how to make this all happen.
      Then, add in your own personality and you will have perfected the art.
    7. CC Project #7 is "Research Your Topic".
      Being the most effective in radiosport is more than just
      plopping your butt in the chair and turning on the radio.
      Weeks in advance, in preparation for a contest event I spend time on the contest sponsors website evaluating the results from previous years events. This allows
      me to make an educated determination of what category I should operate under
      in this year's contest.

      For example, in 2015, coming off of a 2014 Pacific Division Multi-OP plaque win
      with N6GEO, after some careful research, I chose to run the November Sweepstakes
      Phone contest as an assisted station; something I had not yet done in Sweepstakes.
      This last-minute portable operation resulted in another Pacific Division plaque.

      1. Unfortunately, for the 2015 CW Sweepstakes (2 weeks prior) I incorrectly submitted the log as a
        high power (HP) entry; handing over the low power win to the station who should have come in 2nd place.  Classified with the other HP entries,
        I did not stand a chance.  OOOPPPsss.

        In addition to tracking contest related information, I also pay attention to the space weather forecasts; in particular the A & K Indexes, as well as the Solar Flux Index (SFI).

        Receiving advance notice on upcoming solar disturbances allows me to prepare in advance for signal problems that may result from that.

      Studying the K6TU propagation prediction reports as well as the space weather forecasts allows me
      to  layout a proposed
      band operating plan
      updating it as the
      weekend progresses.
    8. CC Project #8 is "Using Visual Aids".
      Turning in consistently high scores in a radiosport contest is partially a function of station ergonomics, as well as operator skill.  Poor station layout can be distracting
      and contribute to carpal tunnel and fatigue.

      Because most stations are now computer-controlled, having 2 - 3 monitors at EACH
      operating position is not uncommon. However, there is a right way and a not so right
      way to layout those screens.

      Only display information that is vital to the operation; and, layout that data across all the screens such that the particular information you are interested in at any given moment
      is on the screen that is currently in your field of view. Discovering the ultimate layout
      will require before-contest trial-and-error until, at some point, it just "feels" right.
    9. CC Project #9 is "Persuade with Power".
      This is often misunderstood as being FORCEFUL when in fact, its about WOOing.
      In radiosport, the objective is to establish communication with as many
      participants as possible.
      If I am parked on a run frequency looking for stations to come to me, I need to present my callsign with confidence. On SSB, the voice should be crisp and distortion free;
      on AFSK, the audio should not be over-driven; on CW, the signal should be free of "chirps" and rise-time "clicks".
      As I work each station, I should deliver the message quickly but not hurriedly.
      Then after listening to and logging the returned exchange, transition from that
      QSO on to the next by way of "QRZ?".
      Its very easy to get out of synch and make mistakes. At times like that should I feel a bit flustered, I take a DEEP breath (literally), slow down, and regain my operational synch.
      When running a frequency, if you come off as not being confident or confused, that confusion will transfer onto your listeners and their calls to you will reflect that confusion.

      If you are searching and pouncing (S&P'ing), when you identify yourself to the run station, deliver your callsign boldly and with confidence. I often break HUGE pile-ups working the station on the 1st call; not so much because of the power and/or antennas behind my signal, but because the timing and intention of my voice or timing of the CW/RTTY keying allows the WQ6X callsign to stand out amongst the piles of other stations.
    10. CC Project #10 is "Inspire your audience".
      In radio sport, this translates into being so enthusiastic behind the key, microphone
      or keyboard that not only do other contest participants want to work you, even non
      contesters  call in wanting to know how they too can play, or at least, you give YOU
      a QSO that you might not have made otherwise, and possibly no one else will have
      an opportunity to make.
      In contests (except Sweepstakes) where I can work a station once on each band,
      operators often remember me from earlier in the day or the day before.

      In order to be remembered more easily, I will often say or do something
      a particular way to imprint my callsign on their experience.
      For the 2017 WPX SSB contest, I digitized the EASY button into the Elecraft K3's voice memory #2 and would press F2 to play it back ("That was Easy") after a contact with North American stations (most Asian operators don't get it) in between QSOs.
      I heard a number of giggles trip the VOX throughout the weekend.
      [CLICK HERE] to hear the easy button.

At the Alameda Tongue Twisters, whenever we speak we are being evaluated not only by speech evaluators chosen especially for us during a given meeting, we are also critiqued
by the person who volunteers as the Ahh-Um counter.

In the same way that unnecessary repetitive movements can waste up to an hour of time, ahh's and um's also waste time; and, they clearly demonstrate lack of confidence and organization. The way you reduce ahh's and um's is make a DEFINITE pause at that
moment. However if the pause is TOO LONG, the station on the other end may get
confused and/or think you are now unexplainably waiting for their information when
in fact, you are not finished sending yours.
There are more things to say about all of this, but that will have to wait for another time. 
Like Toastmaster's, radiosport is not only about communicating but doing so as precisely
and effectively as possible.

When did you last play radiosport?

Is WQ6X in any of YOUR contest logs?

No comments:

Post a Comment