A coupling coefficient is a measure of the effectiveness with which a shape-changing material (or a device employing such a material) converts the energy in an imposed signal to useful mechanical energy. There are different kinds of material and device coupling coefficients, corresponding to different modes of excitation and response. Device coupling coefficients are properties of the device and, although related to the material coupling coefficients, are generally different from them. It is commonly held that a device coupling coefficient cannot be greater than some corresponding coupling coefficient of the active material used in the device. A class of devices was recently identified in which the apparent coupling coefficient can, in principle, approach 1.0, corresponding to perfect electromechanical energy conversion. The key feature of this class of devices is the use of destabilizing mechanical pre- loads to counter inherent stiffness. The approach is illustrated for a piezoelectric bimorph device: theory predicts a smooth increase of the apparent coupling coefficient with pre-load, approaching 1.0 at the buckling load. An experiment verified the trend of increasing coupling with pre-load. This approach provides a way to simultaneously increase both displacement and force, distinguishing it from alternatives such as motion amplification, and may allow transducer designers to achieve substantial performance gains for some actuator and sensor devices.