FOR THE HOST
Assign tasks. Be sure to ask guests what they prefer to bring. Some people don’t like to cook, so request a contribution of drinks, utensils, paper goods or extra serving dishes.
Balance the meal. To avoid ending up with eight desserts and one main dish, assign a specific course to each guest who is cooking.
Play it safe. Keep hot and cold foods at the proper temperatures. Never leave perishable food out longer than two hours (one hour in hot weather). Place cold foods on trays surrounded by crushed ice, and use slow cookers set on “warm” or hot plates for hot food.
Accept assistance. Giving a party is a lot of work. Let others help replenish food and clean up.
FOR THE GUEST
Be reliable. Your host is counting on you and your dish. Arrive when the party is scheduled to begin, and stick to the item that you told the host you would bring.
Arrive at the ready. Try to prepare your dish so it can be placed on the table when you walk in. The kitchen is sure to be crowded and the host busy, so avoid planning a dish that requires additional cooking or elaborate finishing touches at the party.
Mark it. Create a pretty label to place next to your dish. If the food contains any allergens, make a note (for example, “Includes peanuts”).
Source: Linda Larsen, author of The Everything Potluck Cookbook