In years past, the Direct Marketing Association (www.the-dma.org) could count on 13,000 to 14,000 attendees at its annual fall conference. This year, with events being what they are, the outlook for participation at the October 27-31 show was anything but certain. While show management couldn't do anything to ease attendees' concerns about getting on a plane, they decided to ease the pinch on their wallets.

Attendees registering between September 11 and October 12 were offered free airfare on American Airlines. DMA also renegotiated its hotel contracts to offer new registrants discounts of about 20 percent.

At press time in mid-October, the DMA was still signing up attendees, with hopes for a respectable showing at McCormick Place in Chicago for its 84th annual conference. The association was not discussing how many people had taken advantage of the airfare offer. The registration fee for the fall conference was $1,245 for DMA members, $1,780 for nonmembers.