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By: Brett Derkach, Dana Kary, and Harjivan Sekhon

In any persuasive speech, you will be persuading someone to do something or take action. An enabling device is simply the bridge between your speech, and the action you want them to carry out.  


  • Pathos: Having a well thought out and creative enabling device strongly builds your pathos appeal to the audience.
  • Bitzer: Lloyd F. Bitzer, a well renowned rhetorician, said that audiences are more responsive if certain factors are present in the exigence. He says that “as modification capability increases, readiness to respond increases”. In other words, if you give your audience an enabling device, they are more capable of doing the action, and therefore are more likely to actually follow through with what you want them to do.
  • Monroe’s Motivated Sequence: Alan Monroe developed Monroe’s Motivated Sequence in the 1930s and it describes the psychology of persuasion. In five steps, he goes through the thought process of being persuaded. The fifth step is to tell your audience exactly what to do and how. Give them the first steps to take in order to cross that bridge. If you miss this step, you leave your audience unsatisfied because psychologically, they’re expecting that next step.

Personal Experience

After taking RCM 300 and RCM 401 and hearing almost 100 speeches, we have seen some very good examples of enabling device, and some that are not very persuasive.

Good Examples

  • Action: Go bowling
    • Enabling Device: Handed out coupons for one free round of bowling 
  • Action: Wear sunscreen
    • Enabling Device: Handed out SPF lip chap 
  • Action: Cook a meal at home
    • Enabling Device: Handed out recipe cards with simple recipes to follow 

Lacking Examples

  • Action: Donate blood
    • Enabling device: Post the link to the Canadian blood services website to the class site 

In our experience, the most effective enabling devices were creative. This often meant that they were tangible handouts or memory aids. There is a time and place for providing a link to a website, for example, if your topic isn’t easy to search in a search engine, or your action involves being online, like sending an email. If you have persuaded your audience strongly enough to give blood, chances are they'll go look it up online, and with a simple google search, get the same site as you. 


  • One great enabling device is the use of apps on smart phones. For example, if you are trying to convince your audience to travel Saskatchewan, tell them to download the "Tourism Saskatchewan" app, which is free.

  • Try to stay away from using websites. A lot of people use websites as enabling devices. It gets boring and redundant. This is not to say you cannot use websites. If, for example, you were trying to convince your audience to make a home cooked meal, you could use a website that has great recipes. However, a more useful enabling device would be to hand out recipes on paper.
  • If you're talking about food, everybody loves food! Make something! Bring in a sample! 
  • Share personal experiences. This is a great strategy to show that you have put in the effort and proven that whatever you're convincing your audience to do, actually works!


  • This first video is a very short example of what happens when you don't give someone that bridge of an enabling device. At the 0:31 mark in the video, you can see that the person doesn't have that method for achieving the action at which you are persuading. Be aware of this, and always be sure that you give the audience a direct and easy way to achieve the action.
  •  The last video helps the speaker to understand what type of closing to do to setup for their enabling device.
  • In the video, it mentions you have two ways: 
    • Direct close, which specifically and clearly states the action and how to do it to the audience.
    • Indirect close, which reminds the audience of the pain they will continue to have until they do your action
  • Keep these in mind when you are deciding your enabling device. For example, using the direct close, if you ask the audience to "sign on the dotted line", make sure you have brought that petition or document with you, so that can do the action right away, and very easily.


  • Great checklist to see if your enabling device is effective as well as good and poor examples.


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