How to Feed People

Anyone in the event planning business will tell you, if the opportunity presents itself, people will eat. When you plan on guests at your event eating, a bushel of questions come up. Will the caterer’s recommendation be too much? Will people like the food? Did I order too much? Are there enough plates and silverware?

Have no fear, OSU Extension event planning is here! Below you will find tips and tricks to make sure everyone is fed.

Keep People From Dying

The easiest way to determine what you need to avoid is adding a box in your registration asking if there are any food allergies. Food allergies can range in effect from a mild irritation to severe hospitalization. Best to keep away from every scenario and ask upfront about food allergies.

Don’t Let People Starve

A general guideline is to purchase a bit too much food. Remember, 10% of your guest list will probably not show up, but you can always have unexpected walk-ins and guests eating more than anticipated. Generally, the expectation is each person will eat six pieces of the appetizer, if there is a full meal being served, and 12 pieces each if not. Next, guests will have one and a half servings of the main dish and one and a half cups of the side dish. If there is a fruit or vegetable tray, two large platters for every 25 guests is average. When it comes to desserts, account for each guest to have one and a half servings.

Let People Drink

If you intend to serve alcohol at this event, be prepared for each guest to have one and a half drinks per hour. Along with that you should be serving non alcoholic drinks as well, allotting two gallons for every 25 guests. However, this will change based on the nature of the event. If you are planning a wedding, expect guests to drink more alcoholic beverages (typically). If there is no alcohol at your event, you will probably need four gallons of beverage for every 25 guests.

People Need Plates

One plate, fork, and napkin per person will not cut it. Account for an extra 30% of each serving item. If you think you will only need 100 bowls, get 130. When it comes to cups, tack on 50% to avoid running out. Putting a cup down and walking away from it is too easy, so most will solve the problem of their missing cup by getting a new one. Until we can stop this madness, plan for extra cups.

Overall, you know your guests. You know if alcohol is appropriate or not and what foods will do well. Trust your gut and judgement. However, if your gut is telling you to purchase the weirdest appetizer on the caterer’s menu, listen to Pinterest instead.

Using Social Media as an Event Planner

Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. These aren’t only tools for fun, they can be used to take your next event from bland to #trending.

The number one thing event planners need to do is, make sure people know the event is happening. If nobody knows about it, all of your hard work is wasted. Below are a few tips and tricks to make your next event post-worthy.

Make it Facebook Official

Most people have used Facebook to share cute dog videos or host conversations in comment sections, but only some utilize the event pages. Facebook allows you to organize and advertise an event from the comfort of your office (or at home in your pajamas).

Log in to Facebook and look down the sidebar of your main feed. Under the “Explore” heading, there is a little calendar icon named “Events.” If you click on that, it takes you to the events page. Here you can look at events happening near you, see upcoming birthdays, and even create your own.

By creating your own event, you can invite anyone you’re friends with to a private event, or make it public and invite everyone! The page allows you to track RSVPs, hold discussions, and keep everyone updated about the status of the event. Make sure to send out the invitation to anyone and everyone you think would want to come. You can even allow people to invite their friends to expand your network!

Get it Trending on Insta

Establish a short, catchy hashtag to use on Instagram. This allows people to post their own pictures and share their experiences with you in real time. Something with only one or two words is ideal. Do not go longer than 10 letters. If there are multiple words, capitalize the first letter of each to make it easy to read. Something like #New2OSU is great, where as a variation of that, #newtoosu, says something completely different. Here, you either have a small amphibian going to Ohio State or a popular bar coming back to campus. Clarity is key.

Link Up

Use your Linkedin network to share professional events among those who would appreciate them. Colleagues and fellow event planners could even snag a few tips. Once the event is over is the ideal time to use Linkedin. Share pictures and testimonials from attendees to show how great your skills are! Include what you did and helpful advice for those looking to plan their own event like yours.

The Emergency Toolkit You Need

Imagine putting weeks (or months) of hard work into an event. The flowers are delivered, the decorations are hung, and the food is hot. Now imagine, while plugging in your audio, there are not enough outlets! If only you had a power strip or an extension cord. Then, more people show up than RSVP’d, so you’re out of name tags!

One of the most important things an event organizer needs is an emergency toolbox. A box you take to every event with all of the essentials in it to keep the event running smoothly and your sanity levels calm. It is critical to have certain items at hand in case of an unexpected issue or if something breaks. Below are the top tools every event planner needs.


  • Tape measure
  • Glue gun
  • Hammer
  • Flathead and phillips head screwdrivers
  • Pliers
  • Zipties
  • Nails and screws
  • Super glue

Office Supplies

  • Scissors
  • Stapler
  • Duct tape
  • Pens and pencils
  • Rubber bands
  • Notepads
  • Double sided tape
  • Extra nametag supplies
  • FedEx envelopes and labels
  • Hole punch
  • Paper clips
  • Post-its
  • Safety pins
  • Sharpies
  • Ruler (also doubles as a straight edge!)
  • Extra cardstock
  • Label maker


  • Batteries (AA is common, but have some AAAs, Ds, LR44s, and 9 volts for extra preparedness)
  • Extension cords
  • Power strip
  • Mobile device chargers
  • Mobile devices (cell phone, tablet, and laptop)
  • USB drives

Health and Cleaning

  • First aid kit
  • Disinfecting wipes
  • Stain stick
  • Large and small ziplock baggies
  • Paper towels
  • Sewing kit

Personal Care- Even though we all get busy during the time surrounding an event, always take care of yourself! Without you on top of your game, the event could suffer.

  • Sunscreen
  • Reusable water bottle
  • Snacks
  • Aspirin
  • Feminine supplies
  • Eyedrops
  • Extra contact lenses
  • Glasses and glasses case
  • Nail clippers and file
  • Cough drops
  • Mints
  • Floss
  • Clear nail polish
  • Shoe polish

Don’t be afraid to add or remove whatever you feel is necessary! This is a completely fluid list and is not meant to be exhaustive.

Each event is different, so each kit should be different.


The knowledge and personal experiences of Jared Morrison

Designing the Room: Bare Bones

How do you decide how to set up a room? Can you use the same table pattern at a conference as you would at a luncheon? When is it better to use a uniform pattern over a creative pattern? Luckily, there are some basic rules of thumb to determine the best answer. Below are examples of various table shapes, their uses, and their benefits.



This plan is the most common for networking events, receptions, and other small gatherings. It allows the most important guests a central location to sit, allowing for maximum interaction with them. The most important feature of this setup is leaving enough space between tables and chair for guests to comfortably move around the room. Help with this by offsetting the tables into a honeycomb pattern. More tables will fit in the space with greater ease of access.

Placing the stage or presentation area at the front of the room and food to the side allows for watching the speaker while also being out of the way when getting food. Commonly, a meal will be served before the presentation begins so that guests can eat beforehand or during the speaker’s time. If the guests want seconds or a refill on drinks, however, those tables are best off to the side or in the back of the room.



The classroom style is best for use when note taking and laptops will be present. This gives people plenty of space to have their electronics and anything else they may need. Here at Ohio State, we have an abundance of these rooms. However, the setup of the tables are extremely versatile.

The best way to use this setting is during a lecture, presentation, or meeting where food is not served. However, classrooms are so easy to change and are able to become a U-shape, circle, or a hollow square. However you want to use it!



A U-shaped table setting is best used for meetings and small office parties. Food tables can be placed at the front of the room or off to the sides. A neat feature of this shape is that there is a built in “stage” in the middle of the setting. This can be used to hold party games, presentations, and demos. Also, this allows for everyone to see each other when seated. Perfect for collaboration!

If more seating is needed, people can be placed at the joints of the tables. It is inconvenient to be sitting on a joint, but is doable in a pinch. 



An important thing to remember is that you are only limited by the size of the room. Let your imagination dictate how tables are arranged! A more creative setting could include a “starburst” pattern. This gives a fun look to the area and promotes teamwork.

“Starburst” settings are ideal for small team meetings and breakout sessions. Think about using this in side rooms off of a main conference room, or for a small party.

If you have any questions, or would like help planning your next event, please contact Jared Morrison.332 or Jessy Woodworth.50.



This post was made using the knowledge of Jared Morrison and a fellow planning blog, Planning Pod. The link provided gives more examples of various settings and specific measurements of tables.

Event Planning: Where to Start?

So you want to plan an event, be it a party, conference, or symposium. While this task can sound daunting, it is completely doable with the right amount of organization and preparation.

The most obvious questions jump out immediately: Where will it be held? What will people do? How do I know how many will attend? While all of these are very valid and important questions, the first thing you should be asking is why the event is being held. What is the purpose? How does one even begin to plan an entire event?

Some things to note before continuing: All of these tips and timelines are relative to the event you are planning. An office birthday party is different from a back to school celebration; and a back to school celebration is different from a conference. By the same token, events aren’t necessarily always known far in advance. Sometimes you only have a week to throw together a small gathering and other times you have a year to plan. Regardless, there are certain bases that need to be covered first.

Below is a timeline for general event planning milestones that should be completed. While some may not apply to your event (your office birthday party does not constitute a press release or programs) the sentiments are the same.

EventPlanningTimeline copy-ss5y24

As you can see, advanced notice is the key to a successful event. Keeping on top of the milestones and anticipating your attendees’ needs and wants will make the day of your event (and subsequently, your life) run much smoother.

If you have any questions, please comment on this post or send an email to Jared or Jessy to get further clarification. If you would like the full timeline with more details, please look at the attached excel file.

Conference Planning Timeline-1zo206z

First Day on the Blog


I’m Jared Morrison, Event Planner for OSU Extension.  I’ll be working with Extension events on a regional, state and national level, and also help with CFAES events, when needed.  I began working here at the end of June after working for four years in Boca Raton, FL.  I’m originally from Ohio, so I’m extremely excited to be back in the Buckeye State and working for The Ohio State University.  Well, that’s all for now – check us out and see what Extension is up to: