I Got DFT’ed…And I Didn’t Like It.

I Got DFT’ed…And I Didn’t Like It.

Last week I was part of a panel discussion for TiE on the New York startup scene. I was invited to talk about my experience as both a TechStars Alumnus and founder of Red Rover and AlumniChoose.

Before the event officially started, everyone was casually networking around the room. At one point, a lady popped into my conversation and introduced herself and asked what I did. As soon as I finished describing AlumniChoose, she tapped the shoulder of someone nearby and said we needed to talk to each other. As soon as she brought the two of us together in a handshake, she walked away without saying anything. Then a few moments later, she tapped another person I was talking with and pulled him, mid-sentence, away from our conversation and into another one. I continued to watch her work her “magic” around the room, and she kept repeating the same system over and over.

In Dance Floor Theory, we teach student leaders to be spatulas of the dance floor. In other words, we teach them to be facilitators of relationships and to focus less on the event and more on the introductions that happen from the event. In doing that, we want them to connect people together around shared interests. Then, once that relationship is started, move on to another group and make more connections. By the end of the night, everyone should, in theory, know everyone else, which makes for a great, long-lasting, dance party. Hence, the picture above.

In theory, that’s what the lady last week was doing, but it rubbed me the wrong way, and here’s why…

  • Genuine Interest – When she asked me what I did, I thought she was genuinely interested in what I did, but in reality, she was just trying to figure out whom she could connect me to as fast as possible. It felt cold, which is the opposite of a relationship. Had she asked me a couple follow-up questions, it would have felt much better.
  • Right Timing – Knowing when to pull someone into and out of conversations is a bit of an art. But one good rule to follow is don’t pull someone out of a conversation mid-sentence, unless they want you to. This lady not only pulled someone out of a conversation mid-sentence, but it was within a few minutes of having her just introduced us together. We were just warming up our conversation, and she cut it off. A relationship takes time to build roots.
  • Make It Natural – Once you see how a magic trick is done, the magic is gone. DFT is magical when done right, but like a magic trick, if you reveal to the audience how you are doing it, it’s no longer natural and feels forced. The lady last week made her ‘introduction game’ so obvious, that I then doubted the value of the introductions she was actually trying to make happen. She was going for quantity over quality and in doing so, her magic trick was reveled.

I suspect the lady thought she was being smooth and helping connect everyone to everyone else in the room. Overall, she probably was being more helpful than harmful, because most won’t even think to make introductions like she was. But the real art is in the practice of making it seem like you aren’t even trying and that you genuinely want to connect two people together because they actually should connect, not because you want to make your dance floor better.

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