Making a new connection doesn't always come easy, even in the business world.

No matter how personable one is, networking can pose challenges.

The Greater New Milford Chamber of Commerce recently launched a new program -- speed networking -- to help its members enhance networking opportunities.

"We're helping businesses cost effectively reach their consumers," said Ray Kerney, Chamber vice president and a member of the Chamber's member benefits committee, of what the Chamber offers its members.

"Speed networking is one of the things we're doing to accomplish that," he said.

Speed networking, overseen by the member benefits committee, gives attendees a chance to meet many new contacts in a short time in a controlled environment.

"It's great... a venue that's perfect for me," said Patti Garland, owner of the New Milford Curves.

Ms. Garland, who attended the first speed networking forum in April, describes the event as "very focused" and "purpose-driven."

A speed networking event will kick off with 20 minutes of free time during which time people can mingle.

Then it's down to business.

Attendees will normally be seated across from one another at a long table.

Each person will have two minutes to talk about his or her business before an emcee announces it is time for one of the two people to move to the next seat, allowing new interaction.

The four-minute exchange then starts all over again.

It's a similar concept to speed dating.

After the speed networking portion of the event, an additional hour of free time will be given for people to follow up on connections they made.

By the end of the event, attendees should have made numerous new connections and acquired many new business cards.

"I met 20 people within an hour and a half and have business cards and can make referrals," Michael Gold of GeronNursing & Respite Care in New Milford said of his experience at the April event. "That's priceless."

Mr. Gold said while he does attend the Chamber's Business Scenes, another forum for networking, he guessed he met two to three times as many people at the speed networking event.

Susie Cammett of McCaffrey Realty in Brookfield said she had a positive experience at the event but wished there was a little more than four minutes to get to know each other.

"It was a little too fast," she said. "There wasn't enough time. I know the purpose was to scratch the surface of the person you're meeting."

She suggests having a two-minute period after the four-minute introduction time so each person can ask one question.

The question might be the spark for a more in-depth conversation and further networking later in the event.

Overall, though, Ms. Cammett said speed networking is a "great idea" and a "great way to meet new and different people."

The conversation at the event was "very light, very humorous," according to Carrie Dubray, chairperson of the member benefits committee. "There was a lot of laughing, a lot of food and a lot of networking in the end."

"Speed networking forces you to talk one-on-one," said Mr. Kerney, who noted many professionals like the concept because it avoids the small groups of people who may gather at a Business Scene, thus making it difficult for someone else to join a conversation.

The April event was such a success, more speed networking forums are planned in the future. They will be held quarterly.

"We had people join the Chamber just to go to the speed networking program," said Mr. Kerney. "In these particular economic times, networking is important."

For more information about speed networking or to learn more about member benefits, call the Chamber office at 860-354-6080 or e-mail nmcc@newmilford-chamber.com.