- Be a conductor rather than a dictator. Let guests know what you need, but be open to what they want to make. (I almost nixed the gazpacho until I heard they were also bringing disposable cups for serving.)
- Don't assign appetizers to people who are chronically late.
- Assign bread and beverages — a tremendous cost savings if serving beer and wine — to people who don't like to cook. Have a small stash to put out until they arrive.
- Check with guests about last minute baking or prep for their dish. It's nice to be ready for them.
- Make sure you have enough serving utensils for all the dishes (e.g. ladles, tongs, spatulas, pie servers) and have them set out.
- As much as possible clear your fridge for food that needs to stay chilled.
- For off-site and outdoor potlucks, disposable table and glassware are the way to go but for a nicer look, mix and match your dishware and glassware with disposable items.
- If you tend to bring the same kind of dish to potlucks, maybe it's time to invest in the right carrier to make transportation a breeze.
The following three crowd-pleasing dishes are all easy to pack up for your next potluck or picnic: chicken salad flavored with apricots and almonds and bound with cream cheese rather than mayonnaise; black bean and corn salad that doubles as a side dish or vegetarian main course; and oversized chewy-crisp oatmeal cookies with white chocolate, dried cherries and pecans.