I've found that the most important thing to get right in a party venue is the table for food. Not only does this dictate how much space their is for everything else but also whatever the decoration on the table is really sets the mood for everything else and the party in general. This is one of the reasons why I have a big stage set up for my shows because it draws focus and increases excitement and expectation for my show. A well organised table can do a similar thing.
For birthday parties, I think the first thing you should set up are the tables for food. Once this is done you'll see where all the other decorations can go. Here's my rules for setting up tables:
try to set them up as close to the kitchen as possible, you will be doing lots of walking and this will help
ideally you want the tables at the opposite end of the venue from the stage & party zone
make sure you use both sides of the tables for chairs (if you have a larger party) this saves a huge amount of space. Remember kids from 3-8yrs generally are not that big and won't need a huge amount of space. They are not adults. This works better for the kids too as they like to be together to chat and laugh where as adults like to have some space.
See below my two images, the first is a big how not to organise a room, the second is an ideal way of organising a room for a kids birthday party. You can also click on the ideal one and print out the pdf if you like too.
So why is the first image not the way to be organising the room. There are a few reasons, lets start with the table for food. You don't get anywhere near as many children around when you put two tables together like this and I have even had people wanting to do this setup twice, so four tables next to each other. It takes up a lot of space and keeps the kids at a huge distance from one another. You'll also notice that the stage and party fun zone is often much smaller with this set up. It's workable like this but not great. A major problem is that the kitchen is at the opposite end of the venue from the food table this means that whenever you want to get the parents any drinks or food you have to keep walking through the party fun zone. Kids will be jumping around and trying to focus on me and I will be jumping around and trying to focus on the kids so its a nightmare to walk through this zone. The last issue with the wrong set up is that there are seats for parents right next to the stage area, this is distracting for a performer but also it will encourage the kids to go around the performer and see behind the stage. This can destroy the illusion that we try to build. So they are quite silly little simple things but combined together can make a huge difference to how a party goes.
I thought I would include a little note here - Im a realist, I know that venue's vary massively and sometimes it is just not possible to get that ideal set up but rest assured I can deal with pretty much anything I get thrown at me these days.
Decorating the table
Decorating the table is easy, but here is a top tip. Its great to choose a theme like a favourite colour or a favourite TV show or maybe even a favourite animal. With most themes you'll be able to buy table cloths in that theme so if you want an Avengers/Superhero theme you will easily be able to find the matching plastic table cloth. Something I have noticed and I can't decide wether this is done on purpose or not is that these bought table cloth's (especially character ones) are far too small to cover a table. My theory is that it has something to do with imperial vs metric measurements. Most character table cloth's are owned/licensed by american companies who measure everything in imperial measurements where as all our tables are made in metric measurement's, so you end up with table cloths that are too small. Here's the tip first buy one more pack than you were going to buy and try to buy one of these plastic table rolls, you can get them in every colour imaginable and you may be able to find paper table rolls slightly cheaper too. So you get one of these in a corresponding colour i.e for Avengers/superhero you probably want a dark blue one but for a princess party you might want to go for silver or gold. You use the table roll underneath the themed tablecloths you bought and now you can leave space at either end of the table cloths that never fit and it looks nice.
Things to avoid on a party table
Party horns, blowers or any other noise makers - what an entertainer does is just communication, if the kids can not hear us then we can't communicate with them.
Party Poppers - the paper from these gets everywhere and guess who is going to be the main target of it, the entertainer. It's just one more distraction that we could do without. Also I have seen kids pull these right in each others faces, luckily I have never seen anyone injured from them but it sure does look dangerous.
Paper Streamers - these paper streamer are often used to decorate a table but like the party poppers they become ammunition and Im often the target.
Apart from these I don't think there is anything else that is too bad. I hope you have found some of this helpful and please do just get in touch if there is anything else I can help with. If you would like more tips then just type Birthday Tips into the search bar above.