Five qualifying heats took place on consecutive evenings between 26 February and 1 March. Each involved one of the selected acts performing three songs, with the televoting winner from each act going forward to the final.
The national final was held on 3 March at the Cinevideo Studio in Almere, hosted by Ivo Niehe. The winning song was chosen by voting from 13 regional juries, and "De eerste keer" emerged the winner by an 11-point margin.
In 1996, for the only time in Eurovision history, an audio-only pre-qualifying round of the 29 songs entered (excluding hosts Norway who were exempt) was held in March in order for the seven lowest-scoring songs to be eliminated before the final. "De eerste keer" placed 9th, thus qualifying for the final.
On the night of the final the pair performed 15th in the running order, following Slovenia and preceding Belgium. At the close of the voting "De eerste keer" had received 78 points from 15 countries (including a maximum 12 from Austria), placing the Netherlands 7th of the 23 entries. The Dutch jury awarded its 12 points to contest winners Ireland.