October 25, 2011

10 SKED Tips for Hams

The term "sked" is shortened version of the word schedule. It can refer to a flight schedule, a baseball schedule, or any other type of schedule.  In the context of amateur radio, the term refers to a QSO schedule which is a date, time, frequency, and mode that two operators will meet to make a contact. The amateur radio sked is an extremely useful and productive way to acquire challenging or rare DX contacts. We would like to share of few tips about skeds to make the experience more enjoyable.

1) Communicate.  If possible, use instant messaging during a sked to help coordinate the contact. For example, if at the appointed time, the frequency is busy then it is simple matter to arrange a new frequency via instant messaging.  Email can suffice; through, it is asynchronous and a bit more tedious than instant messaging.

2) Call the station.  Call the station directly when starting a sked.  Avoid calling using a general call to the band (CQ, CQ, CQ). This makes the sked more efficient since it will minimize the possibility of competition from other stations trying to answer the call.  It is inconsiderate to arrange a sked and then make the station wait while you work other stations.  Also, you don't want other stations to answer your call and drown out a weak sked.

3) Be on-time.  Regardless if you are the requester of a sked or the receiver of a sked, once agreed, do show up on time. Nothing is more irritating than to spend time calling for a station that isn't there.  Don't be that guy or gal. If you can't make the sked as agreed then it is your responsibility to let the other party know in advance.

4) Express gratitude.  Be sure to thank the sked for helping you (even if the contact could not be completed). A little kindness goes along way.

5) Be helpful.  At the end of the sked, offer to help the sked with bands or modes he made need. The other station may just take you up on the offer and will certainly appreciate the gesture regardless.

6) Select a quiet frequency for a sked.  For example, the 20m PSK31 call frequency is 14.070. This frequency is almost always busy making it difficult to use for a sked.  A sked will be much quicker and effective on a quiet frequency. For weak or rare DX, it is essential to follow this rule.  Remember, you may not get a 2nd chance so make it count.

7) Be ethical.  Never discuss signal reports during the sked.  The exchange (typically call sign and report) must be over the air (not email, phone, or chat).  To do otherwise is only cheating yourself and is unethical.

8) Be courteous.  If for whatever reason the contact cannot be made or is very difficult, do not be critical of the other station trying to help you.  It is simply poor form to belittle another operator or a modest station.  Be thankful for the opportunity and try again when conditions are improved.

9) Be friendly.  Treat every new skeds as potential friendship.  Show the same courtesy to your sked contact as you would a friend.

10) Use the LoTW.  The majority of hams are now using the LoTW to confirm contacts and earn awards.  Your participation with the LoTW helps your contacts earn awards and achieve their goals.

For those already using the Logbook of The World (LoTW), check out my article, "Hunting for LoTW Stations."

If you haven't tried arranging a sked, give it a try. You may be surprised how much fun it is. If you are seasoned radio amateur or a new ham, follow these tips to make the sked experience a positive one for everyone involved.  Let's keep the international spirit of helping one another alive and well in the amateur radio community.

© Michael W. Maher and NJ2X.COM, 2011.

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