Special Event Operating Procedures


Callum, M0MCX

This note will be particularly beneficial to those who may be required to run a special event station either on the lower bands or maybe on VHF. These tips & tricks will also help you anywhere on the band, regardless of your circumstances.

Preface: There are a number of aspects that appeal to me in this hobby, fancy radios, interesting antennas and GREAT operating. I enjoy making my hobby more fulfilling by operating well, and I don’t just mean following my license conditions. I like to mimic great operators, those guys that sound clear, even under QRM and QSB, they mean well, they act professionally, like they’re in Mission Control during an Apollo Mission. They inspire their contacts to act professionally – even the Italians don’t scare them! Someday, I hope I might be half as good as them 🙂


When you call CQ on the band, it is generally accepted that you “own” that frequency until you decide to go QRT and terminate your usage. Let’s call the CQer the “Owner” and the person who calls in, the “Caller”. Most Callers generally adopt the style of the Owner. If Owners are crisp and polite, giving name, QTH and basic operating conditions, ie power and antenna, they will generally get a similar style Over in return. Owners who ramble on, giving callers exquisite detail on version numbers, height above sea level & software etc will generally get a similarly long (and mostly boring) rambling return.

Of course, having a DX contact that might be terminated rapidly due to propagation changes, requires a whole different posture however do listen out for the mirroring, it’s interesting when you hear it happen well. A skilled operator can manage large numbers of contacts quickly whilst maintaining friendliness and professionalism.

Rule of Three

I’m interested in how some operators can run high rates on the one hand but maintain a very polite and meaningful existence on the other. I’m not discussing contesting or DXpedition operating, just a busy guy running for a couple of hours, generating great interest with his superb setup. He doesn’t “Er and Urm” and he’s enjoyable to listen to. He knows what he wants to say and he encourages you to follow suit; sometimes guiding you, “Back to you for a short final” is an ideal example of Operators who manage Over durations.

Whilst in Cornwall in a fantastic beach location, I was privileged to run a few pile-ups during the night to North and South America. I had a dilemma on how fast I should push the pile, on the one hand, I wanted to give the Callers some time to enjoy their radio but on the other, I was conscious of the little guy, 3,000 miles away with a G5RV at 20 feet, looking for his first trans-Atlantic QSO on 40m to the UK (amazingly, there are many). I didn’t want him to wait an eternity to get a look in.

To satisfy all Callers, I would give them three turns on their microphone, the first turn was when they transmitted their callsign, and of course, I’d call them back giving them a signal report, my name & QTH and passing back to them for their second turn, sometimes saying, “..back to you for a short over please..”. In the main, they mirrored my approach and gave me the same style Over as I gave them; crisp and to the point, but friendly and polite at the same time. I’d thank them for calling me and say bye-bye, passing back to them for a short cheerio.

Getting this just right achieves around 60 QSOs per hour, not huge by contest or DXpedition standards, but one that gives callers enjoyment on the one hand but doesn’t frustrate the pile-up with long rambling Overs.

I tried leaving out their third turn on the microphone and not give them a chance to say cheerio by calling QRZ straight away, but for the 10 second saving, it didn’t give me any satisfaction. I therefore adopted the Rule of Three, 1) They get to TX their call, 2) They get a fulfilling over and 3) They get to say goodbye and then I returned to the pile.

During the same holiday, I had occasion to listen to many of stations activating Lighthouses. Some of them followed my Rule of Three but many others had not thought about what they were going to say and had no training or discussion prior to the event and they just “winged” it, waffling endlessly about the event that they were putting on. Of course, they’d end this rambling over with “it’s all on QRZ”.

So how can a Special Event station manage their contacts? For me, assuming you have more than one caller, I encourage the Rule of Three. It goes like this, and let’s assume you are mid-pile-up:

Owner: “.. thanks for calling. Bye bye… GB1ABC listening?

Tip: Always give your callsign, do not say only “QRZ”, it will frustrate Callers who have just tuned in and they will have no idea who you are or what style you are operating. A snappy callsign takes no longer to say than “QRZ” anyway and it’s darned professional.

Callers transmit and you pick out a partial callsign..

Owner: “Who is the Papa Alpha please? P.A. only please?”

Caller: ” PA1ABC, PA1ABC..”

Tip: If you are a caller, Just give your callsign and stop. I have heard on a number of occasions, two-stations, both thinking that they have been instructed and both doubling with each other, giving what should be their 2nd Over. Messy.

Owner: “PA1ABC, thanks for the call, you are 5 and 8 (give accurate reports please). My name is Callum, QTH Birmingham at the XYZ Museum (no need to elaborate). Full details on QRZ.com. PA1ABC, GB1ABC, over

Tip, yes – say Over. There can be no mistake you are giving the microphone back to him and the other callers will take note of your professionalism and will (hopefully) adopt and mirror your great operating.

Caller “.. thank you Callum. Name is Peter from Amsterdam with FT1000mp and G5RV. Sounds like you are having a good time. Enjoy the pile-up. GB1ABC, PA1ABC, over.”

Owner “OK, thanks Peter, indeed many callers so I won’t hold it. Thanks for calling today. Bye bye Peter, Over.”

Tip, I just say “Over” at this point, we don’t need both our callsigns this time. We’re keeping it short and we don’t need to show off that we have a ZL on the line on 40m.. 🙂 We’re just giving him the courtesy to allow him to close off and it tells the pile-up to wait.

Caller “Yes, thank you Callum, good luck and bye bye. GB1ABC, PA1ABC. Bye.”

Tip: A good caller will normally do a professional close-down with full callsigns to indicate they are done and dusted and this also preps the pile-up for their chance.

Tip 2: Some callers might try and sneak in between his goodbye (above) and you calling again (below). I encourage you to ignore them. Staying absolutely professional will maintain a discipline and give the other callers confidence that you know what you are doing. Imagine the consequences of accepting a sneaky call this time? You guessed it, the pile up will cave in on you the next time someone says goodbye and you’ll lose control.

Owner: “Thank Peter. GB1ABC listening..?”

.. and off we go again.

But practice makes it all worthwhile. You would be surprised how many callers you can get when you pace yourself like this, even on 40m during the day at 100w. People love professionalism – and when they hear your little 100w station operating professionally, they will call you.

A final tip, no matter what operating you are doing, if you can keep your Over shorter rather than longer, you will get a faster, more dynamic contact with greater input from your opposite number. You can still have long, enjoyable QSOs (if that’s what you’d like) but by keeping your Overs snappy, you will achieve a more fulfilling experience. Try it 🙂

Enjoy your operating.

Callum, M0MCX.