How to make Field Day (or any remote operation) Great

In my days as a radio broadcaster, one of the most exciting things we did was a “remote”, where we took our gear and our talent out into the community to broadcast live. My good friend and legendary programming consultant, Gary Berkowitz, recently wrote a column about how to accomplish an effective remote. Realizing that Field Day, a Special Event Station, or any activity that takes ham radio into our community is an opportunity to promote our essential avocation, here’s my recipe for excellent execution, borrowing heavily on his advice.

1) Have a plan – Weeks prior to this year’s Field Day, I had the honor of attending the South Lyon Area Amateur Radio Club‘s monthly meeting. A good portion was dedicated to Field Day. They had a strong committee, headed by a strong and respected leader. They recruited a number of volunteers and had detailed plans for everything from set-up to food preparation. Sweat the details before hand and the execution is more than half done.

2) Assign a welcome ambassador – Many years ago, in my role as ARRL Technical Coordinator for New Mexico, I visited a number of Field Day sites. I happened upon one at the same time as another ham. I naturally sought out who was in charge, but this other guy was more of an introvert. He wandered around the site for about 10 minutes, spoke to nobody and got in his truck. As he was about to pull away, he rolled down his window and sarcastically said, “thanks for making me feel so welcome.” Part of your plan should include a trained welcome committee who welcome each attendee, with a special eye for newcomers. Recruit some younger members of your club to fill this role, too. A key to the sustainability of our hobby is our ability to entice the next generation to get involved. This is our chance to show off the most important aspect of what we do, friendly fellowship. People may come to check out the technology, but they stay because of the friendships.

3) Do a practice run before the real thing – This fall, we are launching the Great Lakes Ham Radio Convention at the Michigan International Speedway. The event naturally includes a Special Events Station – K8MIS. Members of our committee are using Field Day as an opportunity to test out gear we’ll be using in October and to review operational ideas that we’re considering. Before you get to the site, make sure your gear is in working order, including antennae, radios, computers, software, grilles, iceboxes, etc. Attention to detail here will minimize the chance of failure on the big day.

4) Promote, promote, promote – Do a creative email blast to, club members, friends and your local media, customizing the copy for each audience. Make use of your social media channels and do a count-down to Field Day to keep things front-of-mind. If your group has a Public Information Officer (PIO), make the rounds to local news organizations and service clubs. Have powerpoints and videos prepared to make it easy for your partners to amplify your message. On Field Day, be well stocked with collateral describing your club, the ARRL and how to become a ham. Make sure your guests leave with their hands full of swag.

5) Serve good food – Nothing telegraphs summertime like the smell of hot dogs and burgers cooking on the grille. Create a sustenance committee that is responsible for feeding your volunteers and guests. Be creative, perhaps sharing the recipes you cook on fliers with information about the club. Bring lots of liquid. Especially if it’s hot outside, hydration is crucial to comfort and safety.

6) Get guests involved – Every Field Day site should have a Get On The Air (GOTA) station, where visitors can try their hand at making contacts. The MSU Amateur Radio Club holds open shack nights throughout the year and the first thing we do after showing off the blinking lights is put a microphone in the visitor’s hands. Nothing creates excitement like involvement.

7) Operate – Get your best operators on the rigs and hit it hard. Have a plan to maximize band conditions throughout the event. Set up times where newer participants can watch, earn and practice. Once you’ve decided which class of operation you’ll be using, keep the rigs on fire all the time. This is practice for the real thing and in the event of a true emergency, the muscle memory will kick in and your club will add true value.

8) Enjoy! – The most important thing about any club activity is to create an environment where your participants can have fun. We promote ourselves as, and in fact we are, crucial partners in times of community need. To make this happen, we need a cadre of engaged, dedicated and excited volunteers who not only know what they are doing, but love what they are doing. Field Day done right can be an annual celebration that everyone in your area, licensed or not, will want to be aware of and involved with.

It’s impossible to cover every base in an essay of less than 1000 words. I welcome additional ideas, thoughts and feedback.

Scott Westerman – W9WSW