World Forum: ‘The power to surprise is part of our DNA’

World leaders, royal houses, presidents: the list of famous visitors is endless. For more than 50 years, World Forum The Hague has been a familiar setting for large and important events. With its facilities, atmosphere, appearance and extensive security protocol, the venue provides visitors with an unforgettable convention experience.

“The power to surprise is part of our DNA. And World Forum can surprise people in all kinds of ways. For an international client mad about cycling, we recently set up cycling routes with a bicycle at their hotel. To ensure a good basic experience, we immerse ourselves in our clients’ world”, explains General Manager Michiel Middendorf.

World Forum is in the safest location in the Netherlands, on a sort of island between the city and the beach, right next to Europol international headquarters. As well, there are major hotels nearby, together good for 750 rooms. The striking building is owned by the municipality of The Hague and run by the French GL Events, which manages 50 venues around the world.

Multifunctional auditorium

To be able to surprise its guests, World Forum is continuously evaluating itself and its service, so that guests can always count on an optimal experience. “We’re always in motion. We’re currently working on our look and feel by making the building cosier, warmer and more intimate, so that you never end up walking into an uninviting empty room,” says Middendorf.

The first result is already noticeable. We enter a contemporary location, where the possibilities are great for organisers. World Forum features a multifunctional auditorium, 35 breakout rooms and 12,000 square metres of convention space. The auditorium is flexible: when fully used, it is suitable for 2,161 visitors, but can easily be adapted to accommodate 770 visitors to keep things cosy and intimate.

“World Forum is in the safest location in the Netherlands”

Any type of event can be accommodated, whether it is an exhibition, convention or performance by a world-famous artist. During corona, World Forum Studio was added to the offerings of the convention centre, a place in New Hague School style where live events could be recorded and broadcast. Although its online platform can be used for this, the studio acts as an extension to physical events. During the health crisis, the World Press Freedom Conference took place here, a high-level digital event with live sessions from various studios at World Forum.

Nuclear Security Summit

World Forum continues to focus on high-quality events, says Middendorf. “These are events where security plays an important role and with which we have a lot of experience. For example, World Forum hosted the Nuclear Security Summit, the Union World Conference on Lung Health and, quite recently, the ONE Conference.”

And then there is the special environment. World Forum can be found right between the beach and the city of The Hague, with its political centre, a royal palace and many cultural attractions. “You can have a nice dinner in the harbour and have drinks on the beach. There’s also a lot happening in the city, as The Hague becomes hipper. An event in World Forum is also an experience from that perspective.”

High security level

International clients are increasingly finding their way to World Forum. According to Middendorf, the spearheads of security, sustainability, vitality and education all have global appeal and remain a common thread for all events. Safety and security are the main USPs. “I dare to call us leaders in these. We have hosted ministerial conferences and even have our own Director of Operations, Safety and Security, Marije Bouwman, who handles event risk profiles and assesses security levels. The entire building is equipped with visible and invisible security, and we have our own crisis management team and crisis room, where organisers and visitors can retreat to in the event of a crisis.”

Food guru

World Forum also pays a great deal of attention to matters such as sustainability and vitality. “About 50 people work here full time. We believe that employee vitality is very important. We pay attention to this with activities as well as healthy food. Vitality is also reflected in the events. We work together with food guru Richard de Leth, who has developed specially balanced menus to help people keep their energy up throughout the day during conventions. We also offer yoga, meditation and energisers in combination with running competitions for our guests.”

Middendorf emphasises that the World Forum strives to be a location that highlights quality and personal attention. “We have a beautiful location, but it’s the people that make the difference. People with a nice mix of experience work here. We collaborate with many institutions in the region, and so much young talent walks around here with new ideas. Working with young people is important for an organisation, as it makes the dynamics unique. Together, we enjoy aiming for a high level of service and satisfying visitors. You can wake us up every night to connect, unburden, surprise you and grow.”

Interview: Sjoerd Geurts

Sustainability: free water taps

Sustainability is one of the spearheads of World Forum, a member of the UN Global Compact and MVO Nederland. The convention centre also has certificates such as ISO-20121 and Green Key. “We believe it’s important to do business in a conscious way. We separate waste and don’t sell plastic bottles. We have Dunea water taps everywhere, which can be used free of charge. Many clients supply us with reusable water bottles with their own look and feel,” says Middendorf.