The buttons, bows, and banners may be on the way out, but convention and visitors bureaus say they intend to work smarter to provide services that matter to planners in this tight economy.

Deborah Sexton, executive vice president of the Chicago CVB, says, “Yes, we've had some reduction in our overall budget, but we are not cutting sales and service.” She echoes other CVB reps when she says, “In fact, we are continuing to increase the services we offer, but we're doing it in a more cost-efficient manner.”

Chicago is asking each convention client what it most needs. “For example, if their biggest issue is international attendance, we'll help them out with an e-marketing campaign,” Sexton explains.

“We're examining everything a little more thoroughly,” says Mark Theis, vice president of the conference division of the San Francisco CVB. San Francisco has loaded its Web site with stock ads that planners can use to attract attendees. The CVB has upgraded postcards and other collateral, and encourages sales and service managers to be more proactive about asking what they can do for a meeting.