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People form first impression within 3 seconds, lobbyist say

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NEW PORT RICHEY — Action causes change, Shawn Foster emphasized during his Business Development Week Education Day luncheon speech last week.

Foster even insisted that the luncheon crowd of Marchman Technical Education Center students and West Pasco Chamber members chant the phrase.

To prove it, Foster offered a $1 bill to the first person to come up to the podium and claim it. Then he offered $5 to the first person who could produce a nickel.

Finally he gave $100 to the student who came up and shared the best story about why the week had been lousy.

It was all to prove a point on his theme of creating a good first impression, Foster said during his speech during the West Pasco Chamber of Commerce-organized BDW event.

It can take as little as three seconds for people to form that first impression, Foster stressed.

Foster, a lobbyist with the Tampa Bay office of Southern Strategy Group who represents Pasco County, said he knows all too well about the importance that the first impression be a positive one. Prior to joining Southern Strategy Group, Foster was an aide to U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor.

He faces an uphill battle to overcome a bad impression. People don’t do business with someone they dislike, he stressed.

Keep in mind, Foster advises, more than 90 percent of communication is nonverbal.

For instance, Foster said he can tell if a phone operator or receptionist is smiling simply by hearing how the person answers the phone.

Social media presents even more obstacles for students today, Foster observed. A potential employer can form that first impression before the student even meets a job interviewer.

He asked the audience about important factors when first meeting someone. They answered shoes, hair, teeth, smile, jewelry and other responses. Foster added with a chuckle that he was wearing his power tie.

A handshake — not too strong and not too weak — helps, as does eye contact. He finds a “smile is contagious.”

Remembering names gets high priority from him. It can take up to seven times to repeat someone’s name so you don’t forget it. Retired Pasco Commissioner Ann Hildebrand was “amazing” with her ability to remember names, Foster recalled.

People often show disrespect unintentionally by answering a cellphone during a conversation, Foster believes. A person should leave the cellphone in a pocket and turned off, not just placed on silent mode.

Foster also joked that anyone whose cellphone rang during the BDW presentation would be required to come up to the podium and dance the Macarena.

Another excellent tool for a good impression is to be on time, Foster said.

Many people complimented the Marchman culinary arts students for preparing and serving the lunch.

Celebrity guests included Sheriff Chris Nocco, Commissioner Jack Mariano with free Richey Suncoast Theatre tickets, New Port Richey mayoral candidate Rob Marlowe and many chamber leaders.

“There are very few of us around here,” Marlowe said about Florida natives like Foster during his introduction of the speaker. After the glowing introduction, Foster joked that he also had cured cancer.

Foster also kidded about advice from his wife for his speech. She told him not to try to be witty and charming, just be himself.

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