Shape of Sheeran

The Shape of Sheeran

As a multi award-winning musician, songwriter and lyricist, you’d expect Ed Sheeran to be able to turn a decent phrase.

And with years of performing experience behind him, you’d also expect him to connect successfully with his audience.

Last week he combined several of these skills when he appeared in his own video, following his success in a court case after he was accused of plagiarism.

The High Court judge ruled that an element of his 2017 hit ‘Shape of You’ was not copied, “neither deliberately nor subconsciously”, from the Sami Chokri (stage name Sami Switch) song ‘Oh Why’, released two years earlier.

You can listen to a comparison of the two clips for yourself here:

Whilst Ed’s words were spoken a little too quickly for our liking – and consequently he lost some of the natural stress and emphasis of normal conversation – here’s what we liked about it:

Short duration

Even if what lasted 1’04” should ideally probably have taken around 1’15” to say, he’s packing a lot of material into a minute and a bit. No one is going to resent spending that amount of time hearing his response to the ruling. The single ‘Shape of You’ lasts over three times longer than this; it was short, punchy and to the point.

Good eyeline

OK – it looks like he’s reading an autocue (probably why he’s speaking so quickly) and so has to look at the camera. But, crucially, this means he maintains eye contact with his audience throughout, and that creates connection and adds credibility.

Natural gestures

Occasional, simple hand gestures are used throughout, helping to emphasise what he is saying, and making him appear more natural and relaxed.

Conversational language

Despite the seriousness of what he’s just been through, no long words are used when they’re not necessary. Instead, the approach is direct and chatty: “Hey guys… I wanted to make a small video to talk about it a bit… claims like this are way too common now…”. What’s more, he doesn’t resort to legal jargon and say ‘sub judice’, but instead “I’ve not really been able to say anything whilst it’s been going on.” The result – everyone understands what he’s talking about immediately.

Numbers as evidence

Numbers do the heavy lifting of convincing in the moment – even if the details are quickly forgotten afterwards. Here, Ed uses three persuasive statistics, two of them rounded up or down for impact: “60,000 songs every day on Spotify…”, “22,000,000 songs a year…”, “only 12 notes available…”.

It got personal

This is the real crux of the video – by far the most personal and powerful part of the whole thing. As a result, it’s the bit which was destined to be quoted and used in newspaper headlines (as indeed it was). This section contained two ‘Power of Three’ statements (known in the trade as ‘tricolons’).


“I’m not an entity, I’m not a corporation, I’m a human being.

Directly followed by:

I’m a father. I’m a husband. I’m a son.

It offered humility

Whilst he could have been seen crowing over his success, that’s simply not Sheeran’s style. Instead, we get “I don’t want to take anything away from the pain and hurt suffered by both sides in this case…”.

He used a contrastive pair to finish

Contrastive pairs are ‘see-saw sentences’ – phrases which hinge around a mid-point, balancing each other in style and structure. They are powerful and memorable:

“Hopefully we can all get back to writing songs, rather than having to prove that we can write them.”

So, all in all, as far as the writing and structure of his statement were concerned, we think it was – in the title of another of his number one hits that year – ‘perfect’.

As you can see, powerful presentations are far from being down to just luck. With careful crafting, you can create the best possible opportunity to make sure your messages hit home too – something we explore in our Presentation Training sessions.

And you don’t even need to have had a number one hit single to get involved…

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