Everyone needs to laugh, especially when spending nearly a week on the verge of exhaustion in back to back meetings at a conference far away from their offices.

Most vendors are smart enough to provide guests who attend their events with some kind of evening entertainment in hopes of giving their brains a break from taking in oodles of information throughout the day.

Sage Software is not unusual in that respect, with comedian Rita Rudner delivering an eye-watering performance in Orlando following the second day of Sage’s annual partner conference, Insights 2007. Her jokes, which many enjoyed for being raunchier than normal, set the tone for audience members to overcome enough of their bashfulness to shake their booties to the music of The Temptations (or at least the one remaining Temptation and the others’ fill-ins).

What was unusual, or at the very least memorable,was their decision to carry a bit of humor into the daylight hours.

On the morning of Rudner’s appearance, Taylor Macdonald, Sage’s chief channel and strategy officer, provided a keynote speech about a laundry list of new benefits for channel partners. The news was fairly significant as Sage is providing employee recruiting programs, marketing coaching and even healthcare. But in reality, it’s nothing that can’t be found on one of the company’s more than half-dozen press releases distributed to media members on handy USB ports.

Even Macdonald was more excited about the act that followed his own -- a speech by Dr. Robert Payne, an entertainer also known as Durwood Fincher or Mr. Doubletalk whose specialty is making fun of whatever industry to which his audience belongs.

There’s a lot of seriousness in humor. Some of the best comedians out there are the ones who are able to poke fun at themselves. That’s what made Payne so funny. Macdonald introduced him as an industry expert, and no one was going to question him at 7:45 in the morning. As they prepared to take copious notes on his supposed insights and looked down at blank pieces of paper, however, attendees started to doubt his legitimacy, realizing that every time he started to say something of merit it really made no sense at all.

“Communication strategy should be part of Sage’s overall plan,” Payne told the audience after revealing that he was the architect behind the vendor’s integration strategy. “We’re way beyond the Information Age to the Communication Age, because what better to do with all that information than to tell people about it.”

Perhaps that makes sense, but so do some of his other insights, which really aren’t insightful at all:

  • “Nothing difficult is ever easy” (a lesson he said he learned from Macdonald);
  • “Wherever we go, there we are;”
  • “Indecision is the key to flexibility;”
  • “If an excuse is good enough, it’s a reason;” and, a personal favorite,
  • “Three-fourths of people make up 75 percent of the population.”

Then things got serious -- or appeared that way.  
“The key to doing business these days is sincerity,” Payne said. “Once you learn to fake it, you’ve got it made.”Mr. Doubletalk -- who claims he wasn’t always a consultant, he “used to work for a living,” -- may have faked out his audience, but he taught them an important strategy that he pitches on his Web site: laughter relieves stress. That’s exactly what Macdonald was hoping for, and he didn’t mind that he was the butt of the jokes. 

Besides, Payne ended his talk by saying he made a similar presentation for Microsoft employees and they actually took notes and named him Man of the Year.

The only thing the Sage executive did mind was that by his estimate one in five channel partners missed the speech, presumably because of the unappealing timing. He made a mental note to consider letting them either sleep in a little later next time or wear pajamas to breakfast.

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