Hall Tests (Trials, Tribulations and Triumphs)

I have recently returned from supervising hall tests for a vaping company in the bright lights of Sutton Coldfield. It was a few days of ‘firsts’ for me – first time away for work without colleagues, first time overseeing hall tests, first time in Birmingham (well, its suburbs) and my first ever Taco Bell.

All exciting in equal measure. For those who may not know – a hall test is quite literally a test carried out in a hall. Whether the product being tested is vapes, steak, or underwater basket weaving machines, market researchers use hall tests to gather large quantities of thoughts, feelings, and opinions from respondents. Hence also the term ‘quant data’ is often used in tandem with hall tests.

As I took my seat on the train, I felt a little nervous and unsure of what to expect from the hall tests. It was easy to envision all the things that could go wrong – what if some of the survey tablets didn’t work? What if we had challenging respondents? What if the products being trialled didn’t work? My manager and colleagues were only a phone call away if any issues arose… but still. Then, the train conductor announced: ‘in the buffet car today, we have teas, coffees, snacks, juices… and alcohol if you hate your job.’ Thankfully, I really enjoy my job, nor were my nerves sobad that I felt the need to crack open a cold one on the 7:30am Avanti West Coast cross-country service to New Street.

I arrived in Sutton Coldfield at around 9:30am and stepped into the hall that we had hired for the tests, a real upgrade from standing in the cold last December when I assisted with similar trials in Stockport. As the first respondents started arriving, I quickly got settled in. Luckily for me, I was working with a great team of interviewers who were so on the ball and knew exactly what they were doing.

None of those ‘what-ifs’ I listed at the start actually happened – the tablets worked, the vapes worked, the participants were all cooperative and polite. The majority showed up and we were able to rebook those who couldn’t make it for one of their sessions. It was easy to get into the swing of things, and exciting to see the project come to life, after being so involved with the recruitment phase.

Hall tests are a great exercise in people-watching, I particularly liked being able to finally put a face to a name (or voice) after spending weeks calling participants to book their sessions. You really do get to see a broad spectrum of human life and experience. Despite the occasional strange encounter, or perhaps because of them, I really enjoyed being out and engaging with our participant. It was refreshing to be out of the office and doing fieldwork as a break from working behind the scenes to recruit people- as a project assistant I rarely get to see research unfold beyond the recruitment stages. I also particularly liked the sandwich shop opposite the hall whose jacket potatoes were unparalleled.

All in all, I’m looking forward to the next round of vaping trials and seeing where it will take me.

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